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WITS Favorite Literacy and Learning Apps

by Elizabeth Kristoff, Grants & Foundations Manager

Literacy and Learning Apps

In honor of National App Day, we asked the WITS team to share their favorite literacy and learning apps. Learn more about the apps WITS uses to expand vocabulary, find books, and even brush up on their bilingual skills!


Through the “HelloTalk” app I can connect with native speakers of different languages from all over the world. I’ve used the app to improve my Japanese and having multiple language partners.
– Nick Colbert, Program Coordinator


Twitter is my favorite app to keep up to date with awesome literacy nonprofit work and my favorite authors and publishers. It might not be widely considered as a learning/reading app, but hear me out. I learn so much from the accounts I follow. For example, I follow Chicago Books to Women in Prison (@ChicagoBWP) to learn about what books are in high need for their collection so that I can see if I can contribute. I follow University of Chicago Professor Eve Ewing (@eveewing), an author who writes about the Chicago Public School system. Drawn and Quarterly (@DandQ) is an awesome publisher of graphic novels and I’ve read so many of the books they promote on their account. Finally, of course I follow WITS (@WITSChicago) to keep up to date with all the cool things happening across our programs.
– Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator


Now that I’ve moved past my “post-grad school, reading is such a chore” feeling, Goodreads has been so handy. I use it to track the books I want to read and to mark my progress on a 40-book reading challenge I set for myself in January. One more book to go!
– Annie Kennedy, Community Manager

Chicago Public Library App

If you don’t have the Chicago Public Library app on your phone, do you even work for WITS? Seriously, this is probably my favorite reading app. I can call books from anywhere! I can renew! I can search for, download, and play audio books! I can reserve spots at exclusive author events. Oh, and I can read books! Seriously, the CPL app is amazing.
– Mia Valdez-Quellhorst, Director of Teacher Programs

Merriam Webster App

I like the Merriam Webster app for looking up words (there’s an audio feature so you can hear how a word is pronounced, too) and the Chicago Public Library app for putting books on hold and borrowing ebooks!
– Ellen Werner, Program Director

Literacy is a Human Right

by Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator


UNESCO asserts, “Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individual, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, ones’ income, and one’s relationship with the world.”

WITS understands this and creates opportunities for every student in Chicago to be literate and grow into a passionate reader.
Being able to read and write allows for meaningful participation in the world. At its base, being able to read means knowing what ingredients are in food, understanding what bus line goes to work, taking the correct prescription drug. Furthermore, reading provides insight into other cultures and lifestyles and helps students understand complex topics.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a plan of action from the United Nations to strengthen universal peace and eradicate poverty by the year 2030. Universal literacy is a part of this plan, “ensur[ing] that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.”

According to a report published by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are proven advantages to being proficient in reading by the third grade. Students who are reading at grade level in the third grade are more likely to graduate high school, less likely to be incarcerated, more likely to find high-paying jobs, and more likely to have a longer lifespan. It is because of these statistics that the WITS Mid-Day Mentoring program primarily serves third grade students.

Beyond taking students to new places, being able to read is vital. Join our movement and help create opportunities for every student in Chicago to be literate.

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Inside WITS: Education Support Professionals Appreciation!

By Ana Porta, Program Coordinator

November 14th is Education Support Professionals Day, which is observed each year during American Education Week. Within the Chicago Public Schools, Education Support Professionals’ roles include office workers, student services employees, food service workers, custodians, bus drivers, security guards, maintenance workers, paraprofessionals, and more. The WITS Program Team has tremendous gratitude for the support professionals’ expertise and accommodation at our partner schools. Without these individuals who invest their time and energy into their schools, the students would not receive the level of support and care that they do. WITS would like to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation for the Education Support Professionals who advocate for our programs, provide us with valuable information, and most importantly, support the students in the Chicago Public Schools.

WITS would like to give a shout-out to these individuals for their the hard work and dedication below:

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National Principals Month

By Kellie Romany, Communications Manager

Each October brings an opportunity to recognize the hard work of our principals during National Principals Month. Here at WITS we are grateful for the incredible principals that partner with us to build critical literacy skills and develop positive self-identity in students. In celebration of National Principals Month we asked our staff to #ThankAPrincipal for their dedication to the education of the next generation.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram for more WITS #ThankAPrincipal shout outs.

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Back to School with WITS: Why Literacy Matters

By Kellie Romany, Communications Manager

Across the country, major retailers are selling out of notepads, pens, and pencils. It’s back to school season! Many students are starting the new school year feeling confident about their summer accomplishments and ready to power through the next ten months of studying, reading, and learning with classmates. The same can be said for WITS. After all the hard work and planning this summer, we welcome the new school year with enthusiasm. Our dedicated team is excited to continue our mission of empowering students as readers to build stronger communities in Chicago.

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