Evanston students uplifted by community members through Books & Breakfast


Illustration by Katrina Pham

The nonprofit organization Books & Breakfast aims to physically, mentally and emotionally support District 65 students with programming before the school day starts.

Ashley Lee, Reporter

Growing up in Evanston, Kara Roseborough said she enjoyed attending Books & Breakfast before class as a student at Dewey Elementary School. 

Years later, she returned to a new version of the organization, directing its site at Dewey Elementary School. Roseborough said it was a full-circle moment seeing how much care and thought was still put into the program for students that look like her.

Books & Breakfast works in collaboration with Evanston/Skokie School District 65. The nonprofit assists teacher-recommended students who qualify for free and reduced lunch with physical, emotional and academic support on an individual basis.

The program runs one hour before school starts and provides resources to help students start their school day successfully, Executive Director Kim Hammock said.

“We’re hoping that the push of resources (at the breakfasts) makes schools places where all kids have what they need to be supported,” Hammock said. “Not just in our words and our intention, but actually in a lived out day-by-day engagement so all children are valued and successful.”

When students come in, they are greeted by volunteers who serve a selection of breakfast food options. The menu switches daily with a mix of low-sugar cereals, fresh fruit and some form of protein.

After eating, each student is matched with a tutor who helps with homework during a period called “brain work.” Once students complete their work, they choose a book from a book cart to read aloud to their paired tutor. 

Roseborough said the books students can read are selected intentionally. The protagonists and characters of the books reflect the identities and cultures of the students enrolled in the program. Roseborough said about half of the students participating at the Dewey Elementary School site are Black and half are Latine.

“There’s just so much thought and intention that goes into representation and care,” she said.

Tutors are Northwestern students and other members of the community. NU students can sign up to volunteer through the Books & Breakfast website.

Roseborough emphasized the importance of having a diverse group of NU students as tutors.

“For (the tutors) to be able to speak to some of the experiences that our kids are going through is really important,” Roseborough said. “(It’s important) for our kids to be able to see a tutor that looks like them that’s going to study and be a teacher or a doctor.”

Every week, Books & Breakfast partners with local organizations to organize creative activities which students can do after reading. Samantha Younis, an instructor from the Evanston Art Center, leads art projects at Dewey Elementary School with students every Tuesday. Students and tutors can also choose to play games together.

Weinberg sophomore Clare Hardiman volunteered for Books & Breakfast last year. She said she felt the organization’s importance on a personal level when she began to see growth in the students she tutored.

“You never know what … one hour of a week can do for kids in terms of helping them read, doing homework or math,” she said. “It may seem really simple, but kids in this program really benefit.”

Like Hardiman, Roseborough said her favorite part of the program was the children.

“I just love seeing those connections for kids,” she said. “I love seeing them have a place to be fully themselves to have just another community that is lifting them up, that’s cheering for them.”  

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Kara Roseborough’s childhood affiliation with Books and Breakfast. She was an attendee while enrolled at Dewey Elementary, not a program volunteer. The previous version also misstated the title of an element of the Books & Breakfast program. The homework help period is called “brain work,” not a brain break. The Daily regrets these errors. 

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Twitter: @ashley_yw_lee 

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