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It takes a village: How community organizations, schools, and families can work together to support early childhood literacy

October 19, 2020

REL Midwest, in partnership with the Chicago public broadcasting station WTTW, produced a 19-minute documentary about how community organizations can incorporate literacy development into their work with children and how they can effectively partner with school districts to promote early childhood literacy.

In this documentary, researchers discuss the importance of building a child’s early literacy skills and how community organizations can support students’ literacy development. The program highlights effective partnerships between community organizations and school districts, including Open Books’ partnership with Chicago Public Schools and Rockford Public Library’s partnership with Rockford Public Schools. The documentary also highlights organizations that provide early literacy programming to their local communities, including Reach Out and Read and the Steans Family Foundation’s work in the North Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.

REL Midwest also produced a documentary viewing guide [577 KB PDF icon ] that is available for download. The guide is a tool for community organizations and school districts to use when creating or refining partnerships to support the development of students’ early childhood literacy skills.


  • Jill Bowdon, PhD, Senior Researcher, REL Midwest
  • Sarah Caverly, PhD, Principal Researcher, American Institutes for Research
  • Laura Justice, PhD, Professor, Department of Educational Studies, The Ohio State University
  • Eric Johnson, Executive Director, Open Books
  • Yolanda Knight, Program Director, Steans Family Foundation
  • Mariana Glusman, MD, Executive Director, Reach Out and Read Illinois; Pediatrician, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
  • Brooke Turnock, Pediatrician, PCC Community Wellness Center
  • Emily Klonicki, Assistant Director, Rockford Public Library
  • Kim Nelson, Executive Director, Early Childhood, Rockford Public Schools