• Kim Piekos

Longtime Friends Think Outside the Box to Generate Love of Reading Among Children

By Kim Piekos

Two Lake Forest entrepreneurs -- friends since second grade at Lake Forest Country Day School -- have parlayed their long friendship and complementary professional careers into Lit League, a company that provides tools to host book clubs for children and friends.

“Our goal is to foster a lifelong love of reading among children in a fun and engaging way, at home and in schools,” says Lauren Fairchild, one of the partners in the company.

“We make it easy for anyone – a parent, a teacher, a grandparent, a babysitter, a nanny – to use the boxes,” says Cecelia Gottman (right), who started Lit League with Lauren Fairchild.

Fairchild and her business partner, Cecilia Gottman, have a long history in town.

“We went to high school together, were in each other’s weddings and now our kids are friends and in the same grade,” Gottman explains. “Being lifelong learners ourselves, this joint venture allows us to use our individual strengths to create products that celebrate reading, something near and dear to our hearts.”

Fairchild brings experience teaching English in middle and high schools in Chicago, Los Angeles and Lake Forest, while Gottman provides finance, marketing and operations experience after working in business-to-business sales. “Lauren is the creative force in the company who loves reading, and I’m the person who loved math as a child and who wasn’t going to read anything unless something fun was involved,” Gottman acknowledges. The two also have a third business partner, a teacher in the Los Angeles area.

The concept for Lit League Boxes arose when Fairchild arranged a book club for both of their daughters and friends in kindergarten. “I found the girls needed something to do with their hands during our book discussions, so I’d prepare a scavenger hunt for them related to the book or a craft related to the main character’s experience that kept their attention and helped them grasp the book’s message,” she explains.

After hearing from other parents that “we couldn’t do this if you weren’t planning it all,” Fairchild and Gottman launched the company in 2018. Today, Lit League offers 14 picture book boxes for children ages three to six, 20 early-chapter book boxes for children ages six to nine and 11 chapter-book boxes for children ages nine to twelve. Each box is thoughtfully curated and contains a high-interest book, a vocabulary bookmark and discussion questions and answers to use in engaging the children aligned with Common-Core standards.

“We make it easy for anyone – a parent, a teacher, a grandparent, a babysitter, a nanny – to use the boxes,” Gottman says.

Lit League has had great success with schools and homeschoolers and has been recognized with a 2021 National Parenting Product Award and Family Choice Award for good reason -- Fairchild goes above and beyond as she creates enrichment options for each box. Readers learn to crochet while reading Esperanza Rising, paint kites when they read Where theMountain Meets the Moon and design dresses when they read The Hundred Dresses. The March box, featuring Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, incorporates music theory videos from New York-based music school Jess and Friends. And in May, kids will learn to cook pasta from a California-based chef after reading Strega Nona. “We look for books that are hidden gems that allow us to create adventures and experiences that turn reading a book into a desirable activity,” Fairchild says.

Lit League also offers specialty boxes based on specific interests. Examples include boxes themed on relationships with grandparents, space, pioneer life, being sick, celebrating birthdays, horses and mysteries. “Parents and readers can submit an interest inventory sheet on our website, and we curate boxes based on what they’ve shared with us, who they want to read about, what they want to learn,” Fairchild explains. Lit League Boxes can be purchased in town at Sage Explorers or at litleagueboxes.com.

Notes Gottman, “The proof is in the pudding. My daughter is hooked on reading, was addicted to her book-club playdates and remains entirely enthralled with the adventurous activities that come with the books.”