Best of Beverly/Morgan Park: Back to School 


By Kristin Boza 

Like it or not, summer is winding down and it’s time to think about getting the kids back to school. After the tough year kids have been through, many may need a boost to ensure they are learning on the right level. These two local organizations aim to help students and parents find educational success. 


August Smith, owner of Bookish (1830 W. 103rd St., 773-253-8203), has been an educator, assistant principal, and principal at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for the last 16 years. She was inspired to open Bookish, a literacy center, to help children read.  

“I wanted to branch out and do something different with my career, and I thought about what would light me up in life, and the answer was teaching kids how to read,” Smith said. 

Reading is a skill that helps children excel in all areas of their academic lives. Smith noted that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted students’ learning, something she saw firsthand as a principal.  

“I noticed during online learning that kids who couldn’t read, like those in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, really suffered a lot,” she said. “If they didn’t have someone sitting with them, they struggled to figure it all out. As a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, I knew this issue would be problematic as we move forward post-COVID.”  

The passion for learning and ensuring kids are moving forward academically inspired Smith to open Bookish as a place for children to improve their reading skills and have fun while doing it. Beyond that, Smith aims to expand the offerings at Bookish to include workshops and events to help readers of all ages and abilities.  

“My vision is to be a community center of sorts. I envision children from around the neighborhood coming to our library and finding authors they love, sitting with a mug of cocoa and curling up to read,” Smith said. “I also hope that adults can utilize the space during the day as a quiet space to work and take calls.” 

Bookish classes accommodate every stage of reader, from emergent readers to older kids who need help with foundational skills, comprehension support, and reading fluency. Parents can purchase a 10-class pass which enables them to attend a class, a workshop, and a consultation about their child’s literacy level, or meet individually with a tutor.  

“During the pandemic, there wasn’t a lot of support for parents. It’s my goal to make sure parents are as supported as possible as their child works with us,” Smith said. 

“It’s my goal to be all things reading, writing, and speaking for all ages,” Smith added. “As Bookish grows, we will have literature parties and various book clubs and people gathering to have discussions. Bookish is a comfortable, engaging, and welcoming space for interacting with one another.” 

For more information, visit and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.  

Connections Learning Center  

Connections Learning Center (2744 W. 111th St., 773-238-4526) aims to help children achieve their academic goals in numerous subject areas. They utilize “brain training,” a technique used to help kids learn information faster, retain it better, and improve their performance.  

“Our specialty is working with students who have learning differences,” said Deb Gawrys, founder of Connections Learning Center. “We look for the underlying cause of the learning difference and then we correct it. Once corrected, students can reach their true potential.” 

Gawrys began her career as a teacher to second, fifth, and sixth graders; she also was a learning disabilities resource teacher in a suburban public school system. After teaching, she went into private practice providing learning disabilities resources in Beverly/Morgan Park, then opened up Connections. 

The Connections Learning Center team specializes in dyslexia and utilizes the Wilson reading program.  

“The important thing to realize is that kids don’t have to struggle. Weaknesses can be strengthened if the correct programs are used,” Gawrys said. “One thing I hope many parents realized over this past year is that perhaps our lives were too busy before COVID and that slowing down a bit was a good thing. I hope we all don’t just get into that busy rut again. Kids need down time and family time!” 

Gawrys’ goal is to help each student who comes through their doors to become an independent and successful learner through utilizing research-validated strategies and programs. 

To find out more visit 


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