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.

There’s never been more momentum for change. As millions of young people flood the streets around the globe to demand urgent climate action, cities and social entrepreneurs have taken matters into their own hands. Feeling this rising bottom-up pressure, governments, corporations, and multilateral organizations, like the UN, are accelerating their efforts to address massive global issues. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have provided a clear framework for action, and they’re helping align more actors than ever in the systems change we need.

OpenIDEO’s leaders, Jason Rissman and Luisa Covaria, spent the week diving into events and conversations, and came back to our team (and now you, our community) with three main themes they wanted to share as we work together to build a better world:

1. Ownership.

Since kicking off the Climate Strike a year ago, 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg has been extraordinarily influential in striking up fierce conversations around climate change and inspiring millions of young people to start taking action. She delivered an unforgettable message at the UN Climate Action Summit, telling world leaders: 

"You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you." 

There’s a new urgency and commitment to addressing the climate emergency, and it’s translating into actors at all levels—from individual young people to national governments—starting to take more ownership. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated, “We have been losing the race against the climate crisis. But the world is waking up. Pressure is building. Momentum is growing. And—action by action—the tide is turning.”

Countries have moved past negotiation and toward ownership, showing up with their own commitments in unison with this year’s theme for UNGA: "Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action, and inclusion." During the week, 77 countries committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and 139 banks—representing a third of the industry—signed up to align with the Paris agreement objectives. The UN member states also adopted a landmark declaration on universal health coverage. These are just a few of many examples of stakeholders proactively bringing forward their solutions. 


Sharing his observations from listening to diverse groups of Americans this past year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the audience that he saw a “tremendous urgency and a tremendous spirit of do-it-yourself … a deep sense that it had to become a matter of personal responsibility right down to the local level.” Echoing his statement, we’re proud of OpenIDEO's globally connected innovators for taking initiative and developing a sense of ownership around local problems. They’re tackling issues related to food waste, people on the move, education, public health, circular economy, and so much more, with dedication and ingenuity.

As we move forward, how might open innovation be a conduit for increased ownership and visibility into the work different stakeholders are taking on? How might the work of so many of the incredible innovators in the OpenIDEO community inspire leaders to develop a mindset around design and prototyping in the work they are owning?

2. Technology

"We will have wonderful machines and dumb people if we don't invest more in education,” cautioned musician and entrepreneur,, during a World Economic Forum panel focused on the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—or the multiple technological revolutions that are transforming the way we live and work—to meet global development goals.

“It’s not about connectivity—it’s about access,” noted Kate Wilson, CEO of the Digital Impact Alliance at the UN Foundation. “How do we provide access to 50% of the world not connected to the internet? SMS and voice won’t do it. How do we create content and opportunities that are relevant?”

It's crucial that no one is left behind. While technological innovation is surely part of the answer, uneven access and unequal digital skills will lead to adverse effects. For tech to improve lives in a responsible and even way, and to avoid even greater increases in inequity, we'll need new models of targeted education, responsive innovation, and real cooperation between economic, political, and social systems.


Tech needs to facilitate inclusion in addressing societal problems, by involving those who are most proximate to the problems that well-intentioned new technologies are aiming to solve. We believe that collaborative thinking leads to greater innovation, and that including the voices of those with lived experiences will generate even stronger solutions. Open innovation is in its infancy, and we’re excited to help it advance to better surface and support the social innovators our future needs.

3. Collaboration

Today’s problems are interconnected, and only through systems change can we hope to make real progress. This will require more cross-sector collaboration than ever, but first, we need to improve how these collaborations are created and sustained. It’s time to introduce new models of collaboration that distribute leadership and allow all sectors to pitch in.

The SDGs have provided a powerful framework for what needs to get done, and some of the biggest players in the public and private spheres are putting their heads together to unlock the resources necessary to meet them. During UNGA, Google and the UN launched a partnership to develop real-time maps on weather patterns and SDG development activity, while the Gates Foundation and the World Bank announced a multi-million dollar commitment to support small-scale food producers in the face of mounting climate impacts.

Public-private partnerships are a necessary ingredient, as are new collaboration models that offer participants more shared ownership and flexibility.

The road to healthy collaboration is fraught with challenges, from getting past cultural differences to agreeing to common goals to making the long-term commitments needed for systemic change. Making collaborations work is hard work -- it takes empathy, grit, and a real understanding that it’s the key to sustained progress.


We’re excited for open innovation to provide a unique opportunity to rally diverse stakeholders and together explore new possibilities. By providing shared learning opportunities, clear timelines and processes, along with compelling incentives, open innovation holds the potential to mitigate against these common obstacles and to quicken the pace at which solutions are being developed by scaling the design process globally. Direct competitors collaborating in a pre-competitive space to address environmental challenges is a promising sign, but we need to go further. We all need to adopt an experimental mindset as a collective and work to continuously improve our ability to collaborate.

The NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, which culminated in a pitch event at UNGA, was one such collaboration, with leading brands, industry experts, and innovators coming together to eliminate single-use food packaging waste by developing a more sustainable cup. 

It is incredible to be in a room where you can feel a community reach a turning point. This year at UNGA we felt that shift tangibly across fields and sectors. We look forward to a year of collaborations with our partners and community that reflect this movement. 


1 . National Institutes of Health (NIH). Handout on Health: Atopic Dermatitis (A type of eczema) 2013. 2. NA Gandhi et al., Targeting key proximal drivers of type 2 inflammation in disease. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2016;15(1):35-50. 3. S. Weidinger et al., Atopic dermatitis. Lancet. 2016;387:1109-1122. 4. T. Zuberbier, et al., Patient perspectives on the management of atopic dermatitis, J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;118(1):226-232.

Header Image © 2018, Lurdes R. Basolí / EFA Atopical Lives Project

SAGLB.AD.19.08.1277(1) | September 2019