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October 2, 2021

The wall is the brick front of Funston Elementary School in Chicago.

The occasion is the recent presentation of baskets of brand new books and other goodies for participants in the “John Stephan’s Escape from the Jeopardy Zone” program.

Pictured in the attached photos are the “wall” with just one of the children and his mother in front of it (no group photos yet, social distancing), as well as some of the other children and a parent with their Holiday decorated baskets. These baskets are only the first of several they will receive to stimulate a love of reading, build their reading skills, bond with their families, and build their own home libraries.

Both the dedication and the funding of this program come from the Kiwanis Club of Lake View – Chicago.

John Stephan, a long time Kiwanian and Club Director of the Logan Square Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, shortly before his untimely passing in 2019, collaborated with The Freadom® Road Foundation to design a program aimed at saving children from the peril of possible future incarceration – the “jeopardy zone” – a danger according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Report “Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters.”

Children in the program, along with their parents and siblings, choose books – as well as writing and art materials – in areas of personal interest; create home libraries; and connect with their neighborhood libraries – especially with the Chicago Public Library during its annual Summer Learning Challenge – a proven winner in building reading skills and a love of reading.

“John Stephan’s Escape from the Jeopardy Zone” program sells the joy of reading. It is holistic, putting reading and reading success in the context of the child’s family and community. To ensure these qualities exist in the program, the books in the basket are curated, attractive, and new; the parents’ involvement is paramount; and the collaboration of partners is multi-layered – involving The Freadom® Road Foundation, The Chicago Boys and Girls Club – Logan Square Club at Funston, Funston Elementary School, the Chicago Public Library Logan Square Branch, and the Kiwanis Club of Lake View.

“John Stephan’s Escape from the Jeopardy Zone” program is in alignment with Kiwanis International’s “Read Around the World” Initiative.