Mission and History
Rock For Reading leverages the power of ROCK to inspire literacy – motivating and empowering people to enrich their lives through reading.
We accomplish our mission by:
- Raising awareness and resources through a series of musical concerts and benefits
- Awarding grants to literacy and reading programs at community organizations, libraries and schools
- Building partnerships and strategic alliances to raise funds in support of organizations championing the cause of literacy
- Educating our public to promote activism and direct involvement
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Reading is an essential foundation for success in school, competing successfully in the workplace and for dreaming. Lifelong education empowers people to ultimately improve socioeconomic conditions for their families, communities, countries and future generations. Literacy opens doors of opportunity and understanding that no other skill can provide. The ability to read, write and understand stimulates communications that impact every life. Rock For Reading’s vision is to inspire a community of readers and to create a community of dreamers.
Music is the inspiration for many great ideas, among them Rock For Reading. In 2003, singer and songwriter Alice Peacock joined with Camping and Education Foundation president Hugh Haller and photographer Paul Natkin to raise money for literacy by starting a foundation focused on reading. The idea stemmed from Alice’s song “I’ll Start With Me,” which is about individuals choosing to take action and make a difference in society.
Since the inspiration for the organization came from Alice’s music, the group decided an annual benefit concert would be the signature event of the foundation. Alice, Hugh and Paul worked to bring together a talented group of Chicago recording artists to perform at the first benefit show, a day-long outdoor music festival titled “One Day, One Stage, One Reason.” Unfortunately, heavy rains cancelled the event at the last minute.
After the Rain
Fortunately, the soggy setback did not mark the end of Rock For Reading. Alice and her crew worked into 2005 strengthening the organization. They recruited and assembled a Board of Directors consisting of an assortment of Chicago’s leading professionals. They also gained official 501(c)(3) non-profit tax status, attracted new corporate sponsors and secured LaSalle Bank as the title sponsor. Alice and the team also launched the official Rock for Reading Web site.
Benefits for the organization in 2005 included sold-out concerts with Lucinda Williams and Nickel Creek at the Vic Theatre and a WXRT/Potbelly Sandwich Works live radio show with Alice Peacock, Steve Winwood, Tegan and Sara and Lin Brehmer. Rock For Reading also organized a Lincoln Park Athletic Club/Goose Island Brewpub fundraiser and completed its first Founder’s Circle Pledge Drive.
Growth Through Grants
Rock For Reading continued growing in 2006 through the efforts of Alice, Hugh, Paul and the other volunteers. Organization outreach and awareness accelerated with a $10,000 MOD grant from the Chicago Community Trust.
Rock For Reading’s growth meant that other literacy-based groups could benefit as well. The organization made its first grants to groups that support a similar mission to fight the rising tide of illiteracy and renew interest in reading. Rock For Reading targets organizations that focus on functional literacy programs as well as those that encourage a culture of reading.
Alice and the crew also formed new partnerships with Chicago businesses. The LaSalle Bank designated Rock For Reading as an official charity of its Shamrock Shuffle 8k race, and a partnership with the Tribune Company enabled Rock for Reading to participate in the Printers Row Book Fair for the first time.
Additional organizations that partnered with Rock For Reading in 2006 include the Chicago Public Library System, the Chicago Public School System, the Chicago Community Trust and the LaSalle Bank Marathon. The signature concert featured Willy Porter and his virtuoso band at the Park West.
Rock For Reading’s momentum continued building in 2007. The group kicked the year off with its first Rock For Reading Read-A-Thon. More than 3,800 Wilmette School District 39 students from kindergarten through grade eight participated in the event and raised more than $50,000 in funds for the organization. The children also collected more than 7,000 books for distribution by Book Worm Angels, a Chicago nonprofit book-collection agency.
In another first, Rock For Reading launched Creating a Nation of Readers with the collaboration of New York-based Weigl Publishers Inc. and Book Worm Angels. The program combats rising youth illiteracy rates in the United States by attaining book donations from publishers and distributing the donated books to literacy organizations.
Rock For Reading also assembled its first Chicago Marathon running team, which raised more than $20,000 for the organization and finished the 26.2 miles despite unseasonably warm temperatures.
Another 2007 highlight was the sold-out signature concert featuring David Gray. The concert raised more than $50,000.
Growing in 2008
Rock for Reading revved up its book-collection efforts in 2008 by starting with a book drive. The Glenview Community Church Nursery School Reach Out for Reading program held a drive in January and collected more than 1,000 books. Another book drive in the fall net more than 1,000 books for Rock for Reading and Bookworm Angels, which collected book donations from families visiting Ravinia for the Summer Festival in September.
The organization also paired in 2008 with fellow-charity Open Books and the Chicago Public Schools for two sort-a-thons.
Rock for Reading sponsored a team of runners for the Elvis is Alive 5k, and another running team raised money for the organization and ran the 2008 Chicago Marathon. The marathon team raised more than $22,000.
The group’s signature concert in November featured Steve Earle, Tom Morello and Allison Moorer performed at the Vic Theater. Group founder Alice Peacock ended the year by performing a benefit concert, called “An Evening with Alice Peacock,” at SPACE in Evanston.
Founder & President