“I am all butterflies. Every part of my body is shaking,” Jean Fahey said when she found out she had won the Early Childhood Book Challenge sponsored by OpenIDEO and the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation.

OpenIDEO “is part of IDEO, a global design and innovation consultancy” that encourages people to tackle a wide range of social problems.

The Early Childhood Book Challenge asked for creative manuscripts that would “inspire children and their caregivers to read together.”

Specifically, the manuscripts had to:

• “Excite and educate caregivers about the opportunities and importance of reading, singing or talking together”

• support early language development by engaging “young children in their earliest years,” and

• “Reflect the lived experience of families living in urban contexts in the U.S., in communities like Philadelphia”

In response, people from five continents submitted more than 500 manuscripts.

Ten manuscripts made the short list of finalists.

Among these ten, is Fahey’s winning manuscript, “I’ll Build You a Bookcase,” which reads in part:


“I’ll build you a bookcase before you are born

That’s made out of boxes of shoes that were worn.

For books we will read in the soft morning light,

And books we will read before saying goodnight.”


As we’ve blogged, Fahey is an early childhood literacy specialist as well as the author of a previous children’s book, “Make Time for Reading,” that includes tips for adults.

As the winner of this contest, she will receive a $20,000 award and “the opportunity to work with a publisher to share her book widely.”

To learn more, tune in on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, for an online event featuring Fahey speaking with “New York Times columnist and noted pediatrician and author Perri Klass, M.D.” Click here to register for this discussion. And click here to receive more information about the Early Childhood Book Challenge.

“When you look at who can read,” Fahey says of the importance of early literacy, “many children who can read have been read to. And now we know if we read to them as soon as they come home from the hospital, that’s even better than waiting until they’re preschoolers.”

That’s what attracted her to this challenge, the opportunity to develop and share new ways to encourage parents and caregivers to read to children early and often.

Congratulations, Jean.