WITS History


wits history


WITS’ history started twenty five years ago when three Chicago change agents created two programs, now combined into one organization to empower students as readers.

Marion Stone and Joanne Alter

In 1991, Joanne Alter and Marion Stone befriended a teacher at Byrd Academy who expressed her students need for 1:1 reading time with caring adults to help get them up to grade level reading. Joanne and Marion got to work. They cleaned up the school library and read with students. As students were transformed into empowered readers, Joanne and Marion were inspired to found Working in the Schools (WITS) with the vision of activating volunteers as literacy mentors for students throughout Chicago.


Simultaneously, just a few blocks north at Oscar Mayer Elementary, librarian Rochelle Lee was inspiring generations of students and parents through her love of reading. In honor of her impact, the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA) was created to provide teachers with the training and resources needed to inspire a love of reading in students. In turn, RLTA teachers emerged as literacy leaders in their schools.

In 2015, these programs merged under the WITS umbrella to create a holistic approach to literacy support in classrooms and schools. WITS stands on the shoulders of these visionaries and their belief that empowering students as readers will build communities of lifelong learners.