Early Childhood Book Challenge

How might we inspire children and their caregivers to read together?

Funded by the William Penn Foundation
We are seeking manuscripts for a children’s book that engages children (ages 0 to 3) and provides adults with ways to support early language development.
We're Looking For

Authors to write and submit a manuscript for an early childhood book that:

  • Excites and educates caregivers about the opportunities and importance of reading, singing, and talking together, to support early language development
  • Engages young children in their earliest years with a story that makes the book a favorite
  • Reflects the lived experience of families living in urban contexts in the U.S., in communities like Philadelphia

Learn More +

The Opportunity

The winning author(s) of one Top Manuscript will receive:

  • $20,000 in award money to make the manuscript publisher-ready
  • Recognition as the winner of the Early Childhood Book Challenge
  • Connections to a publisher to turn the manuscript into a book
  • The potential for 10,000+ books to be published and distributed in Philadelphia, with wider distribution possible
  • Travel to Philadelphia for recognition at a winner announcement event

Learn More +

What's Happening Now
  • Review Phase: a cohort of editors and experts will review each submission to check for alignment with the Challenge evaluation criteria.
  • Refinement Phase: from May 6 - May 24, shortlisted authors will further develop their manuscripts.
  • Top Manuscript & Shortlist Announcement: by June 21, we will announce the top and shortlisted manuscripts.
  • Sign up to receive email updates, including the Top Manuscript & Shortlist Announcement

The Challenge

This is an open call to new and established authors to write a manuscript for a children’s book that inspires children and their caregivers to read together. Manuscripts should engage children (from birth to age 3) and provide adults with ways to support early language development. In the end, one winning author will be given the opportunity to have their book published and distributed around Philadelphia, and potentially beyond.

In addition to our Evaluation Criteria, we are looking for authors to write and submit a manuscript for an early childhood book that:

  • Excites and educates caregivers about the opportunities and importance of reading, singing, and talking together, to support early language development
  • Engages young children in their earliest years with a story that makes the book a favorite
  • Reflects the lived experience of families living in urban contexts in the U.S., in communities like Philadelphia

If you have questions around the submission process, or the Challenge in general, you can contact ecbook@ideo.com for more information.

Challenge Journey

1. Open Submission

Feb 20, 2019

Apr 12, 2019

2. Shortlist Selection

Apr 12, 2019

May 6, 2019

3. Shortlist Refinement

May 6, 2019

May 24, 2019

4. Final Selection

May 24, 2019

Jun 21, 2019

5. Winner Announcement

Jun 21, 2019

Current Phase
1. Open Submission
Submissions now closed

Congratulations to all who submitted a manuscript to the Early Childhood Book Challenge! The submission phase is now closed.

The Open Submission Phase was an opportunity to write and share a vision and manuscript for an early childhood book that inspires children and their caregivers to read together.

All submissions remain publicly viewable, so participants are encouraged to still connect with one another, share feedback, and even form partnerships.

Submissions will remain on the platform, unless they are removed by the submitter.

WHAT'S HAPPENING

The submission phase is now closed. Submissions will remain on the platform, unless they are removed by the submitter.

GET INVOLVED

All submissions remain publicly viewable, so participants are encouraged to still connect and share feedback. Sign up to receive email updates.

KEY DATES

Started on Feb 20, 2019, and submissions were due April 12, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

PHASE CLOSED
2. Shortlist Selection
Submissions are being carefully evaluated to determine the Manuscript Shortlist.

A dedicated cohort of early childhood editors and experts is reviewing submissions to check for alignment with the Challenge Evaluation Criteria. We appreciate your patience as we review all submissions.

No further submissions or changes will be possible, though we encourage you to continue to connect with others on the platform.

On May 6, we will contact all those who submitted a manuscript to share whether they are shortlisted. We will not be publicly announcing the shortlist at this time.

What's Happening

All eligible submitted manuscripts are reviewed.

Get Involved

Share your feedback on submitted manuscripts.

Key Dates

On May 6, we will contact all those who submitted a manuscript individually to let them know whether they are chosen for the shortlist.

SHARE FEEDBACK
3. Shortlist Refinement
Shortlisted authors further develop their manuscripts with support

During the Refinement Phase, up to 10 shortlisted authors will be invited to develop their manuscripts.

Shortlisted authors will be given the opportunity to work with illustrators to create concept sketches for key parts of their manuscripts, and editors to refine their work. See more information about working with Illustrators during this phase below.

Those who are not selected for the shortlist are still welcome to connect with one another on the Challenge platform.

What's Happening

Shortlisted authors receive additional resources to improve their manuscripts, including working with an illustrator and editor.

Key Dates

Refinement materials are due from shortlisted authors by May 24, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. PST.

Coming Soon
4. Final Selection
Selection committee evaluates and selects a Top Manuscript

Shortlisted manuscripts are reviewed again by the selection committee to select the Top Manuscript. The selection committee will use the Evaluation Criteria as a guide for selecting a Top Manuscript.

What's Happening

Stay tuned while the selection committee evaluates shortlisted manuscripts.

Key Dates

Final selection begins after shortlist submission deadline on May 24. Top Manuscript and shortlist announced by June 21, 2019.

Coming Soon
5. Winner Announcement
Announcement!

Stay tuned for the announcement of the Top Manuscript and shortlist cohort.

What's Happening

Prepping for Top Manuscript and Shortlist Announcement.

Key Dates

Top Manuscript and Shortlist announced by June 21, 2019.

Coming Soon
The Challenge

How might we inspire children and their caregivers to read together?

Read The Full Brief

Our Challenge Topic

We are calling on storytellers to write manuscripts for a children’s book that engages children (from birth to age 3) and provides adults with ways to support early language development.

From day one, meaningful interactions with adults are fundamental to young children’s development. During a child’s first three years of life, more than a million new neural connections are formed every second – more than at any other period. Reading, talking, singing, and playing are all critical tools to help a child learn and make these invaluable connections.

Early literacy is one of the most important predictors of later success. According to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet, every year, more than 80 percent of children in low-income families miss this crucial milestone. The earlier children begin their reading and learning journey, the better they will be prepared for the future.

This Challenge seeks to address three needs:
  1. Parents need more support: Caregivers need to be equipped with the tools, resources and confidence to support their child’s development.
  2. Children and Caregivers need a high quality book they love: The more that children and caregivers love their books, the more likely they are to read and interact together. And child-caregiver interaction is vital to early childhood development.
  3. We need more diversity in the types of stories being told: Many children’s books don’t reflect historically underrepresented characters, settings, and narratives.
Through the Early Childhood Book Challenge, our goal is to source talented authors to write and submit a manuscript for an early childhood book that:
  1. Excites and educates caregivers about the opportunities and importance of reading, singing, and talking together, to support early language development
  2. Engages young children in their earliest years with a story that makes the book a favorite
  3. Reflects the lived experience of families living in urban contexts in the U.S., in communities like Philadelphia

Interested? Jump in here to get started with your submission today!

READ MORE +See Less –
Who is this Book For?

The audience for the book includes:

  • Caregivers: Parents, guardians or other close family members of young children. The book needs to provide these adults with the confidence and tools to support the child in their early language development.
  • Young children: Infants and toddlers from birth to 3 years old. The book needs to resonate with very young children, leading them to want to read and hear it again and again.
  • Families in urban contexts: Caregivers, young children, and families in U.S. cities like Philadelphia should, in some way, see themselves in this book.

For a more in-depth window into the end-users (in this case, the end-readers), for whom you are creating this manuscript, check out our Challenge Personas.

READ MORE +See Less –
The Problem and Opportunity

Through this Challenge, we are seeking to solve for a few key needs:

1. Parents need more support

Caregivers want to help their child learn, but often aren’t aware of the significant impact they can have on their child’s learning.

Caregivers want to help their child learn, but too often, they aren’t aware of:

  • The substantial impact they can have on their child’s learning
  • The amount of learning that can begin as early as birth
  • What they can do at home to support early learning

Caregivers need to be equipped with the tools, resources and confidence to support their child’s development.

What if all parents received the information they needed to support their child’s literacy from day 1 of their child’s life?

2. Children and Caregivers need a high quality book they love

The more that children and caregivers love their books, the more likely they are to read together.

Interaction between children and caregivers during reading is where the real magic happens. It’s never too early to start talking, reading, and singing with babies. It can make a big difference in how a child learns and grows. How? Learning language helps babies learn lots of other important skills, like reading, building relationships with others, and mastering other subjects.


What if young children had a book they loved to read over and over again, that demonstrated for their caregivers how to best read and engage with them?

3. We need more diversity in the types of stories being told

Many children’s books don’t reflect historically underrepresented characters, settings, and narratives.

There is a lack of children’s literature that features narratives like the lived experience of families in urban areas, communities of color, people of color, and low-income communities. Because of this, many families don’t see themselves in the books they read. Parents want books that reflect their families and communities.

With this Challenge, we’re looking for manuscripts that reflect the lived experience of families in urban contexts in the U.S., in cities like Philadelphia.


How might underrepresented communities see their lived experience in the books they read?

We hope that by identifying these problem areas, we can uncover new opportunities to address each, through a new kind of early childhood book.

READ MORE +See Less –
Evaluation Criteria

Winning Submissions Must Adhere to the Following Evaluation Criteria:


Engaging

Manuscripts must be enjoyable and engaging for children from birth to age 3, while inspiring caregivers and children alike to read it again and again.


Research-Informed

Manuscripts must be informed by early childhood research and subtly teach caregivers ways to support early language development with infants and toddlers. Leverage the resources in the "Early Childhood Research" section here.

Expands the Conversation

Manuscripts must be additive to the children’s book space. We're eager to think beyond current narratives with stories that elevate nontraditional spaces, identities, cultural experiences, ethnic perspectives, racial backgrounds, and community experiences

Community-Rooted

Manuscripts must reflect an urban setting and demonstrate a community-rooted perspective that resonates with residents in urban U.S. cities like Philadelphia.

Age appropriate

Manuscripts must use vocabulary and concepts that are supportive of developing early literacy for children from birth to age 3. Manuscripts with majority Tier 1 vocabulary words and select Tier 2 vocabulary words strongly preferred.

Previously Unpublished Work

Manuscripts must be unpublished. Work that has been published in any format, including online or self-published, is not eligible.

Succinct

Manuscripts must not exceed 250 words

READ MORE +See Less –
Submission Guidelines & How to Participate

Are you a storyteller? An author? A writer? A visionary? Passionate about trying something new?

We need the expertise, creativity, and perspectives of a wide variety of storytellers who are willing to share their vision for an early childhood book If you have an idea for a children’s book that could help inspire caregivers and children to read together, this Challenge is for you.

Authors

We welcome new and established authors to participate, as well as agented and unagented authors. No preference will be given to authors based on publishing status or agent representation. Only previously unpublished work will be accepted for submission.

Submissions are welcome from a single author or a team of authors. Authors can be located anywhere in the world, but the book should be relatable to children and caregivers in U.S. cities. 

All participants should be serious about their commitment to turn their manuscript into a book—by going through the editing process with a publisher.

Interested? Begin your submission now!

Illustrators

This Challenge is only requiring manuscripts from authors to be submitted. However, we plan to have illustrators involved during the Refinement phase.

During the Refinement Phase, selected authors will work with an illustrator to create concept sketches for key parts of the book. Authors in the Refinement phase will have a few options for the illustrator with whom they work: they may choose to be paired with an illustrator through OpenIDEO’s network, choose their own illustrator, or even illustrate their book themselves.

For the award-winning Top Manuscript, a final illustrator will be identified in collaboration with OpenIDEO and the publisher. The final selected illustrator will work with the winning author and be given a contract to produce the full illustrations for the book. Like the author, the selected illustrator will be awarded $20,000. The chosen illustrator will be required to agree to all contracting terms from the publisher, OpenIDEO, and William Penn Foundation in order to receive their award.

Interested in being considered as an Illustrator? Sign up here!

Questions and Contact

Visit the standard OpenIDEO FAQ page for answers to common open innovation Challenge questions.

If you have questions around the submission process or the Challenge in general, you can contact ecbook@ideo.com for more information.

READ MORE +See Less –
FAQ's and Additional Resources

Have a question? Start by reading through our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's).

Additionally, review this list of Additional Resources to support you and your submission.

READ MORE +See Less –
Top Manuscript: What Happens if I Win?

Following the Early Childhood Book Challenge, OpenIDEO and William Penn will announce a Top Manuscript. 

The winning author(s) will receive:

  • $20,000 in award money to make the manuscript publisher-ready
  • Recognition as the winner of the Early Childhood Book Challenge
  • Connections to a publisher to turn the manuscript into a book
  • The potential for 10,000+ books to be published and distributed in Philadelphia, with wider distribution possible
  • Travel to Philadelphia for recognition at a winner announcement event alongside the William Penn Foundation

In order to claim the awards, the winning author will need to agree to all contracting requirements from the publisher, OpenIDEO, and the William Penn Foundation.

Once selected, the author(s) will be provided the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia to be recognized at a winner announcement event alongside the William Penn Foundation. Once all contracts are agreed to, the Winning Author(s) and Illustrator will be granted a contract to move into publishing the book. Once the contract is confirmed, they will be eligible for the winning prize offerings, including the $20,000. The Winning Author and Illustrator will work with a previously chosen publisher (or publisher equivalent) to create the final version for print. The book will be printed in 10,000+ copies and distributed for free in Philadelphia. We’ll share more about the precise opportunity and requirements with the winner once selected.

The manuscript can be produced by a single author or a team of authors. We welcome new and established authors to participate as well as agented and unagented authors. No preference will be given to authors based on publishing status or agent representation. Only previously unpublished work will be accepted for submission.

READ MORE +See Less –
About The William Penn Foundation

This prize is funded by the William Penn Foundation. Founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, William Penn Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region.

READ MORE +See Less –
SHARE FEEDBACK
SHARE FEEDBACK
Challenge Team:

Matthew Ridenour

Business Strategy & Partnerships

Lauren Ito

Community Manager

Hannah Lennett

Marketing Manager

Itika Gupta

Community Fellow

Follow the Challenge

Sign up now to get key updates about this Challenge delivered straight to your inbox.

Sign Up Now