Announcing the Winner and Shortlist

Celebrating one Top Manuscript and nine Shortlisted Manuscripts that show great potential for engaging children and providing adults with ways to support early language development.

In early 2019, OpenIDEO launched the Early Childhood Book Challenge with support from the William Penn Foundation, asking authors the question:

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

We called on manuscripts that would:

  • Excite and educate caregivers about the opportunities and importance of reading, singing or talking together
  • Engage young children in their earliest years to support early language development
  • Reflect the lived experience of families living in urban contexts in the U.S., in communities like Philadelphia

We were amazed by the response. Over 500 manuscripts were submitted by authors from five continents. We saw authors share their beautiful words, community members provide important perspective and feedback, early childhood experts impart key wisdom, illustrators bring submissions to life, and editors provide deep and thoughtful builds for participants.

After a significant evaluation process involving a cohort of professional editors and a Selection Committee of key stakeholders, ten manuscripts were selected for the Challenge shortlist. Their authors were each given editor feedback and paired with an illustrator to prototype their book.

Check out all 10 shortlisted manuscripts in their prototyped form.

The top 10 manuscripts selected for the Challenge shortlist, including the Top Manuscript, "I'll Build You a Bookcase"

Top Manuscript: I’ll Build You a Bookcase

While all 10 shortlisted manuscripts were exceptional in their storytelling and dedication to early literacy, we are proud to announce that I'll Build You a Bookcase was selected as the Early Childhood Book Challenge Top Manuscript. Congratulations to its author, Jean Ciborowski Fahey! She'll be receiving $20,000 in award money and the opportunity to work with a publisher to share her book widely.


I’ll Build you a Bookcase

Author: Jean Cibowoski Fahey

Bio: Jean is a parent educator, author and speaker on the topic of getting our youngest children ready to read. In this capacity, she also consults for a variety of early literacy initiatives and organizations, and creates home literacy curriculum for Parent-Home visitors and Early Intervention Specialists.

Spreads from a prototype illustration version of I'll Build You a Bookcase. Illustrations by Jameela Wahlgren.

The Refinement Phase Shortlist

The following nine manuscripts advanced to the Refinement Phase of the Challenge. Each shortlisted manuscript was identified by our Selection Committee of experts as a promising manuscript that models different methods to encourage children and their caregivers to read together. We’re honored to celebrate the authors of these submissions.

Crosstown Bop, by Kelly Bennett

Books for Everyone!, by Nadine Gamble

Let's Find Colors!, by Virginia Brackett

City Block Rock, by Mary Kate Bolinder

With Me, Baby, by Marni Fogelson

I See, I Think, I Wonder!, by Aixa Perez-Prado

The City's Backyard, by Kelly Andrews

Whose Face is That?, by Sophia Ezomoghene

Lots to See, Lots to Say!, by Leslie Bockol

It Takes A Village

The Early Childhood Book Challenge would not have been possible without the support, guidance, and dedication of many individuals. We’re pleased to feature some of the village who helped make this vision a reality:

  1. Selection Committee
  2. Illustrators
  3. Editors

What Comes Next?

On Tuesday, August 13, we hope you will join an online event to hear more from prize-winning author Jean Ciborowski Fahey in conversation with New York Times columnist and noted pediatrician and author Perri Klass, M.D. You can register now to take part in that conversation and we'll be in touch with additional details as it gets closer. We also have a few more announcements and events coming soon.

If you'd like to stay updated, be sure to sign up to receive Early Childhood Book Challenge updates.