Spotlight on Chicago

My name is Sharon and I’m a CLI literacy interventionist in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). For the past 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of working side by side with many young children who have benefited from extra literacy instruction and TLC. I have realized that I can only work for an organization that actively pursues liberatory educational practices that empower Black and Latinx children to their full potentials. That’s why working at Children’s Literacy Initiative is the perfect organization for me.
Evan* is one story that comes to mind when I think of the importance of asset-based, liberatory educational practices. Evan began school with some major health struggles that affected his early literacy development. Although Evan was engaging and a great storyteller, he didn’t see himself as a reader or a writer. I knew that we could find a way to work with Evan’s strengths and help him see reading as a joyous activity. Rather than emphasizing what was holding him back, reading could be an act of liberation for Evan.
So, my plan was to meet him where he was at. He told me stories as I wrote them out. We read and reread them together, and made sure that others read his stories, too. Over time, Evan became more interested in how his stories worked on paper. Evan began to realize the purpose of reading and writing and that he had something to contribute to others. This was my opening to teach him the tools – the nuts and bolts – he needed to continue to read and write his own stories and those of others’. Fast-forward, Evan is now a thriving 5th grader who sees himself as a learner and is willing to take risks to continue his learning pursuits.
I am grateful to be a part of CLI’s mission that prioritizes helping Black and Latinx children personalize their learning by seeing themselves in their learning journeys and that they have much of value to contribute to our community! If this story reminds you of someone you love or your experience in school, I hope you consider supporting the Chicago campaign. I can tell you firsthand how much having an interventionist in the classroom affirms and supports children. Thank you for your support and for your help in making sure children like Evan get what they need to learn how to read.
In literacy and liberation,

Sharon Lyons

Literacy Interventionist

*Name has been changed to protect privacy of our students

Save the Date

Raise a Glass for Reading Spirit Week


Raise a Glass for Reading (RGR) is just around the corner! 

Join us for Children’s Literacy Initiative’s annual fundraiser as we recognize the hard work of our coaches, teachers, and children. This year’s celebration will be spread across a Spirit Week from May 16, 2022 through May 20, 2022. Events will include a special Read Aloud with Jason Reynolds, Book Bingo, and the week will culminate in our signature event—Raise a Glass for Reading. Click here to save the date on your calendar!


May 16, 2022

A Special Read Aloud w/Jason Reynolds


May 17, 2022

CLI's Book Bingo Event


May 19, 2022

Raise a Glass for Reading
w/Jason Reynolds


May 20, 2022

Day of Gratitude and Week in Review

Special thanks to our sponsors and partners who support our mission

KnowFully Learning Group 

Diamond Sponsor

Alera Group

Platinum  Sponsor


This year’s signature RGR event will feature a “fireside chat” with writer and poet Jason Reynolds, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and New York Times Bestselling author. Jason’s books include Stamped, Stuntboy, As Brave As You, and so many others. His work has been described as “conversations with young readers” and “love letters to Black kids”. We are incredibly excited for our intimate conversation with Jason on affirming children’s identities and bringing his whole self to writing and literacy.

A 4-Star Review from Charity Navigator!

CLI is proud to announce that it has maintained its 4-star charity rating with Charity Navigator. A 4-star rating is given to organizations who score a 90 or above in Charity Navigator’s review and is considered “Exceptional.” It demonstrates an organization’s strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.

Charity Navigator’s 4-star rating and its review of CLI often serve as an introduction of our organization to new donors who are seeking to support a charity committed to literacy, early childhood education and social justice.


CLI welcomes 2022 LIT Giving Society Members

In celebrating the inaugural year of our new donor recognition society, CLI welcomes over 20 individuals and families to its LIT Giving Society. The LIT Giving Society recognizes loyal donors who make philanthropic commitments of $10,000 or more annually and significantly elevate the work CLI undertakes to provide best in class culturally sustaining literacy instruction, amplifying reading outcomes for the Black and Latinx children we serve. Expressing gratitude for their sustaining support, Naimah Bilal, CLI’s Chief Development Officer stated, “Our donors give generously to advance a dual aim - reading attainment for Black and Latinx children and social justice. We thank our newly inaugurated LIT Society members for the transformative support you have provided children and educators”.

Join us in welcoming the following members:
  • Allen H. and Selma W. Berkman Charitable Trust
  • Anonymous
  • Bonnie and Lon Greenberg
  • Claire and Jeff Black
  • Dan Doran
  • Gerald B. Shreiber Foundation
  • Hamilton Family Charitable Trust
  • James P. & Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation
  • Jason and Holly Anderson
  • Jeanne and Dov Haselkorn
  • Joel and Sharon Koppelman
  • Lawrence J. and Anne Rubenstein Charitable Foundation
  • Lori and Mark Fife
  • Mary and Justin Klein
  • Mary Kogut
  • PTS Foundation
  • Richard Gluck
  • Selander Foundation
  • Steans Family Foundation
  • Stranahan Foundation
  • The Hobbs Foundation
  • The Jim Moran Foundation

To learn more about CLI’s LIT Giving Society, visit


Celebrate Women’s History Month

Celebrate Women’s History Month with biographies, historical fiction, and informational texts highlighting the lives and work of politicians, artists, activists, educators, environmentalists, musicians, athletes, and more. Share women’s stories this month and every month with great books you can find in CLI’s collection.

CLI’s approach to Women’s History Month aligns with our views for all celebrated Heritage Months—we believe that to authentically tell our nation’s history we must create a story that’s inclusive and goes beyond the accomplishments, ideas, and creations of a few. Our hope is for educators to be able to paint a clearer picture by “telling stories that consider women’s gender expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and ability...” (Learning for Justice). Furthermore, schools will be able to integrate these stories along with the hidden narratives that have been ignored and overlooked into their curriculum throughout the entire school year.

Half My DAF is Back

We have learned of an opportunity for the grants you make through your Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) to have an even greater impact through the #HalfMyDAF challenge, which has returned for 2022.
With over $160 billion in Donor Advised Funds across the country, the #HalfMyDAF challenge, which started in response to COVID in May 2020, aims to move that money to nonprofits by offering matching grants. 
For 2022, #HalfMyDAF is committing to give at least $2 million in matching funds. They have created a $1 million general matching fund available to all nonprofits, in addition to providing matching grants to organizations supporting education in underserved communities, and nonprofits focused on reproductive health-focused and racial justice.
If you are a DAF holder and can make the commitment to spending down half of the money in your DAF by September 30, 2022, the grants you make could be eligible for matches from #HalfMyDAF. The first matching grant drawing will take place on June 24, 2022.

A Year of Impact

This year’s annual report, entitled Literacy to Liberation, provides an overview of how Children's Literacy Initiative continues to evolve. And how these organizational shifts fundamentally impact CLI’s theory of action and the vital work in districts, providing the support teachers need to help children feel safe, seen, and ready to learn.

Check out our Annual Report to see the many ways that your gifts are enabling us to amplify reading for over 70,000 children across the country!
Check out the annual report here! >>

In Case You Missed it: CLI’s CEO Breakfast Briefing Critical Race Theory


We started 2022 off with an incredible CEO Breakfast Briefing that focused on Critical Race Theory and education. Select donors and partners were invited to join in this quarterly 30-minute virtual conversation with live Q&A. Joel was joined by Chief Academic Officer, Erica Holmes-Ware as they shared an overview of the history of Critical Race Theory, how this framework has driven advances in pedagogy and how it intersects with CLI’s work. What does it look like in the classroom? What are our partners saying? 

We invite you to view the recording of this insightful and compelling conversation. 

To watch the Breakfast Briefing please complete the form below:

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Gratitude Corner

We thank all the donors who have supported CLI over the past several months, including the following Leadership Donors:
  • Anonymous
  • Barra Foundation
  • C. Eugene Ireland Foundation
  • Christine and Stephen Johnson
  • Claire and Jeff Black
  • Claire and John Steinberg
  • Clark and Amy Hale
  • Donna Felice
  • Gerald Mosely
  • Hamilton Family Charitable Trust
  • Jason and Holly Anderson
  • James and Elinor Buck
  • Jim and Kathy Haselmaier
  • The Jim Moran Foundation
  • Jeanne & Dov Haselkorn
  • Heather (Kate) Duffy
  • Libby Helms, Inc. The Good Beginning
  • Mary and Justin Klein
  • Mary Kogut
  • Merck Foundation
  • Shelley and Steven Harris
  • Stranahan Foundation
  • Thomas Lampron
  • TisBest Philanthropy


Our Case for Support

Interested in learning more about Children’s Literacy Initiative? Check out our Case for Support for an extensive overview of our work, our national impact, and the students and teachers we serve.

Our Pathway to Liberation >>