The educational careers of up to 40% of children are imperiled because they don’t read well enough, quickly enough or easily enough.

As many as 50% of children provided with 10 to 20 self-selected books at the end of a regular school year make reading gains.

Reading aloud to children is so critical that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends doctors prescribe reading activities along with other advice given to parents during regular check-ups.

Rooted in research emulating optimal approaches to literacy engagement and improving children’s skills overall, My Very Own Library has set out to transform the lives of young children throughout the United States and the world.

The numbers don’t lie. Consider the following facts about childhood literacy.

Our Model


Our focus is all about working with community partners to foster students love of reading, while also helping them improve literacy skills.

My Very Own Library’s success comes from a holistic approach to improving literacy skills throughout the community based on four specific objectives: Individual Students, Family Engagement, Community Partnerships, and Supporting Local Schools. Focusing on these four objectives helps ensure the long-term success of each student and the transformation of each participating school.

OBJECTIVE 1: individual student

My Very Own Library revolves around engaging individual students from Pre-K to 8th grade. Our goal here is to cultivate a lasting appreciation and motivation for reading in every child. There are three ways this is accomplished.

The first and core of the My Very Own Library program is our national partnership with Scholastic Book Fairs. Every year, each child gets to choose 9 free, new books throughout the school year to build their own home libraries. In addition, My Very Own Library pays for each school partner to send one extra book home with students to read as a summer activity. Our book fairs strategically take place three times during the school year to encourage reading while school is out of session: December before Winter break; March before Spring break; and June before Summer break.

The second way we motivate students is through recognition opportunities for individual students. Recognition programs have been developed at several participating schools, providing fun ways to encourage students to reach new heights with reading. One example of this is the launch of the All Star Reader Program in our Newark location that celebrates top readers from each participating school with an award.

The third way My Very Own Library creates enthusiasm around reading is by hosting author visits at participating schools. Author visits have become one of the most fun and innovative ways for MVOL to motivate students to read and write. Schools select 100 students to participate in each event. Children read the author’s book in advance, and on the day of the visit they experience an interactive presentation followed by a Q&A with the author. The visit concludes with a book signing where they receive a signed copy of the author’s book to add to their home library. Many of these books have received the highest accolades in children’s literature, including (but not limited to)… Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award, John Newbery Medal, Eisner Award, Ambassador of Children’s Literacy, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Coretta Scott King Award Winner John Steptoe New Talent Award Oprah’s Book Club Reading List, Young Readers Choice Award, Golden Archer Award.

My Very Own Library Visiting Authors

This is the growing list of authors that have proudly visited My Very Own Library Programs since 2011

Alan Gratz
Alan Katz
Alexander London
Alice Ozma
Allan Woodrow
Amariah Rauscher
Ana Diaz
Ana Galan
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Andrew Harwell
Angela Cervantes
Audrey Vernick
Augusta Scattergood
C.J. Leigh
Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Christine Kendall
Coe Booth
Dan Gemeinhart
Dan Poblocki
Daphne Benedis-Grab
Dave Roman
Deborah Hopkinson
Denise Patrick
Derek Anderson
Eliot Schrefer
Elisha Cooper
Elizabeth Eulberg
Elly Swartz
Emily Jenkins
Emma Clayton
Eric Luper
Erica Perl
Gale Galligan
Gavin Brown
George O’Connor
Gita Varadarajan
Gordon Korman
Heather Alexander
Ida Siegal
Imani Henry
James Burks
Jane B. Mason
Jeffery Salane
Jennifer Nielsen
Jonathan Fenske
Joy Lindsay
Katy Kelly
Kevin Sherry
Khali Raymond
Kirby Larson
Kristen Rocha
Laura Terry
Laurie Calkhoven
Luke Flowers
Lulu Delacre
Marc Nobleman
Matt de le Pena
Matthew Kirby
Max Brallier
Michael Northrop
Natalie lloyd
Natalie Standiford
Natasha Tarpley
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Orli Zuravicky
Raina Telgemeier
Riza Printup
Ross Burach
Sandra Markle
Sarah Darer Littman
Sarah Hines-Stephens
Sarah Mylnowski
Sarah Weeks
Sayantani Das Gupta
Selina Alko
Sharon Cameron
Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Sharon Flake
Sharon Robinson
Stephen Savage
Steve Metzger
Sundee Frazier
Suzanne Weyn
Taye Diggs & Shane W. Evans
Tiffany Strelitz Haber
Tommy Greenwald
Troy Cummings
Varian Johnson
Veronica Chambers
Walter Dean Myers
Wendy Mass
Wendy Shang

“I particularly love the author visits. We make sure we prepare the children by having them read the authors books, study the author, and conduct follow-up work around the authors’ books. When the author then walks into the room, there is an audible, collective gasp, as if LeBron James had stepped into their library. I LOVE that children begin to see authors as their heroes through MVOL!”

Teacher, Newark Public Schools

OBJECTIVE 2: family engagement

It is no secret that when parents are involved in the students learning environment that success rates soar. To that end, My Very Own Library invests in building a family reading support system at home to further ensure that books are being read once they reach home by providing partner schools with mini-grants to host family literacy events throughout the year.

“84% of caregivers surveyed report that they have learned new strategies from the My Very Own Library program.”

OBJECTIVE 3: community

My Very Own Library brings the community together to further support local students’ love of reading. Our community partners offer unique programs that connect reading to their own organizational missions, and most provide incentives to students like tickets and other giveaways. For example, our Delaware location partners with the Blue Rocks minor league baseball team to put on a literacy-promotion night where top readers get to throw out the first pitch and the concourse is filled with various literacy vendors.

Volunteers also visit and read aloud to students which works to strengthen foundational literacy skills, increase vocabulary, and is an inclusive way to orchestrate something special in their community.

OBJECTIVE 4: school support

The majority of schools that receive the My Very Own Library program are deemed Title I schools and are in great need of resources. My Very Own Library supports partner schools through its generous partnership with our national sponsor, Scholastic.

In each of our US markets, Scholastic matched 50% of every $1 spent on books for students in special Scholastic Dollars. An online account is established, and Schools can spend these “dollars” on thousands of school supplies in the robust online Scholastic catalog. Schools can use this credit to buy books for their library, classroom books, purchase items for teacher incentives, family engagement events, technology, furniture, and more!

“You’re never too old, too wacky, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

-Dr. Seuss

Get in Touch


The University of Chicago
Attn: University of Chicago My Very Own Library
5801 South Ellis Avenue, 5th Floor
Chicago, IL 60637



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