Literary Lots brings to urban kids and families the power and magic of imagination by turning vacant, underutilized spaces into scenes from children’s books that inspire, empower and engage. Literary Lots reimagines vast, sparse lots in underserved city neighborhoods and remakes them into spaces that engage and immerse the entire community in arts and literature. Art pieces that are fun and functional bring to life scenes from select children’s books through 3D representations, beaconing residents of all ages to hop in, climb on and explore. Within each Literary Lot, programming that’s free and open to the public occurs on a regular basis.
Literary Lots 2019 draws its inspiration from The Wild Robot. This is a book about a robot, Roz, that falls overboard while being transported to a city and accidentally gets switched on by the animals on the island where the story takes place. Using artificial intelligence and her adaptive skills, Roz, once seen as an outsider, becomes part of the island ecosystem and gains support of the community of animals there. When robots from the company that manufactured Roz come to reclaim her, the animals rise up to support and defend their friend. The book is about essential aspects and attributes of a strong and coherent community, such as belonging, supporting, understanding and overcoming differences.
The 2019 Literary Lots will be located in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood, where more than half of families with children live below the poverty limit and residential streets are still pockmarked with dilapidated houses abandoned during the foreclosure crisis that infected this area more than a decade ago. Slavic Village is more economically depressed than 99 percent of U.S. Zip codes, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. More than 43 percent of youth in the neighborhood are born to mothers without high school diplomas and 85 percent of the kindergartners living there fail the Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Assessment. By third grade, fully three-quarters of the children in this neighborhood lag two grade levels–or more, testing has shown. Clearly, sustainable socio-economic empowerment and mobility for the neighborhood’s residents depends on changing these circumstances.
Over the last five years, Slavic Village Development Corp. has encouraged local organizations to focus on literacy through the Slavic Village P-16 initiative. During that time, the 70+ partners have succeeded in increasing kindergarten readiness and are making significant progress in improving third-grade reading scores. The goal is to ensure that every third grader in Slavic Village is reading at grade level, thereby positioning every child for future academic success. The initiative has increased the number of quality preschool seats from 30 to over 300, and aims to secure over 500 seats over the next few years.
Literary Lots is a natural partner to catalyze, create and sustain vibrant communities by using literature as a springboard to bring organizations together over the summer in one common outdoor space that’s right in the neighborhood. In 2019, this programming will expand and build on other efforts in Cleveland to engage residents in dialogue about productively using civic spaces and vacant land by offering an inviting refuge within neighborhoods for summer reading, art, and music. In unique and varied ways, Literary Lots helps create and sustain vibrant communities inspired through literature. Working with local cultural institutions and non-profits, Literary Lots will provide interactive, informative programs and transformative experiences for neighborhood families that combine creative land re-use, artist engagement, youth education and urban renewal to be enjoyed by all.