LAKEVIEW — Ten girls at Lake View High School became mothers in the past year.
And thanks to a campaign by a school English teacher, each new mom took home a basket of baby books for them to read to their children.
Janet Allen, 31, decided to raise money for this year’s teen moms after she realized a student last year was not reading to her baby. The student, Chyla, was an avid reader but didn't have time to go to the library outside of school. On the few occasions she had time, the walk to the library near her home in Humboldt Park was unsafe.
As a teacher, Allen has seen the academic difference between students who have been read to and those who have not.
"These babies may be my student one day," she said.
Allen collected a home library for Chyla. Then last fall, Allen set out to collect books and raise $1,500 through an indiegogo campaign to buy home libraries for the girls, knowing that about 10 to 15 students at Lake View become pregnant each year — many of whom face similar struggles as Chyla.
“These are girls who really want to be great moms, but so many of them are unaware how important it is to read to your baby,” Allen said.
Chyla has since graduated and still reads to her daughter Mercedes, she’s told Allen. This year, the 10 girls were given a basket of books — from interactive books like “Dear Zoo” for younger kids to wordier ones like “Where the Wild Things Are” for older kids — that should sustain the babies until they reach school age.
For 18-year-old Martha, new mother to a son, the books are “a gift that will stay with him for the rest of his life,” she said.
Allen hopes to find a way to keep bringing the library to students in the future, maybe with a benefit or other fundraising efforts. Whether or not the girls end up reading to their tots, the books should at least put the idea in their head, she said.
“It is just a way to encourage them and let them know it’s important,” she said.