Lee & Low Books Signs Award-Winning Illustrator for Early Childhood Book Challenge

Early Childhood Book Challenge

Lee & Low Books has partnered with the William Penn Foundation and OpenIDEO on the Early Childhood Book Challenge to promote early literacy. Today we’re excited to share an update on the project:

PHILADELPHIA, January 23, 2020 – Publisher Lee & Low Books has signed  award-winning illustrator Simone Shin for the groundbreaking Early Childhood Book Challenge initiative funded by William Penn Foundation. Launched in 2019 by OpenIDEO, the initiative supports the publication of an original story for children ages 0 to 3 celebrating literacy and inspiring adults to support early language development. The story was selected through a global Early Childhood Book Challenge managed by OpenIDEO.

Shin will illustrate the Early Childhood Book Challenge winning story, I’ll Build You a Bookcase, written by Jean Ciborowski Fahey and published by Lee & Low Books. With support from the William Penn Foundation, 25,000 copies of I’ll Build You a Bookcase will be published in five languages for distribution to Philadelphia families: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Arabic. Partners including Reach Out and Read and the city’s campaign for grade-level reading, Read by 4th, will distribute the books to families with young children to help build children’s home libraries.

“I am so excited to be illustrating for this project with the William Penn Foundation,” said Simone Shin, illustrator of I’ll Build You a Bookcase. “What an honor to have the opportunity to create art that will encourage and inspire young readers through these programs.”

“I noticed how adept Simone is at showing both the tenderness and innocence of our littlest people,” said Jean Ciborowski Fahey, author of I’ll Build You a Bookcase. “And as for toddlers, she creates their movements with the clarity to pull them into the story and keep them there. I can’t wait to see what she does with Bookcase.”

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Shin graduated from Boston University and Art Center College of Design. She is the recipient of a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, and her illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, Real SimpleWired, and other publications. Past works include Mama Loves You So, Niko Draws a Feeling, and The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle. Simone’s illustration is also featured in Lee Bennett Hopkin’s latest anthology, I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage, an exploration of growing up in the United States. Her latest publication is Thank You, Garden set to be released in March 2020.

“The illustrations will play a key role in introducing this book to young children and families, who we hope will pick up and read the book again and again,” said Elliot Weinbaum, Program Director at William Penn Foundation. “Talking and reading with children is how we lay the groundwork for strong readers in the future, even when it seems like they are too young to understand. This book seeks to engage children with its emotionally resonant writing and storyline while giving ideas to adults about how to support early language development. We are eager to share I’ll Build You a Bookcase with Philadelphia families, and we hope to see this book reach families around the country.”

As the largest children’s book publisher specializing in multiculturalism, Lee & Low Books is honored to publish this contemporary, diverse story. “Shin’s gorgeous artwork incorporates a sense of joy and inclusiveness that’s sure to engage young readers,” says Jason Low, Publisher of Lee & Low Books. “We are proud to have her as part of this groundbreaking project to promote early childhood literacy.”

I’ll Build You a Bookcase will be available for national distribution and Lee & Low Books is accepting pre-orders. Organizations interested in bringing the book to families and young children should contact Hannah Ehrlich at hehrlich@leeandlow.com.

About William Penn Foundation

The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. The Foundation’s assets exceed $2.3 billion as of December 31, 2018. For more information, visit williampennfoundation.org. 

About Lee & Low Books

Established in 1991, Lee & Low Books is the largest children’s book publisher in the United States specializing in diversity and has been a leader in the movement for diversity in children’s publishing for nearly 30 years. Under several imprints, the company provides a comprehensive range of notable diverse books for beginning readers through young adults. Lee & Low titles have received major awards and honors including the Coretta Scott King Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Sibert Medal, the NAACP Image Award, and many more. The company’s longstanding initiatives include the New Visions and New Voices Awards, two annual writing contests for unpublished authors of color that have led to the publication of more than 20 debut authors. Recently, the company created the Diversity Baseline Survey, a landmark study of diversity among publishing industry staff and reviewers. Visit leeandlow.com to learn more.


Kelsey Ruane
Communications Associate, Great Learning
William Penn Foundation
(215) 988-1830 x1003

Hannah Ehrlich
Director of Marketing & Publicity
Lee & Low Books
(212) 778-4400 x29