OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Sounds of the City

Throughout a child's day in the city, from an outing with Grandma to bedtime kisses, he/she experiences a host of entertaining sounds.

Photo of Deborah Spitz
2 0

Written by

Baby’s up early stacking towers of blocks 

I hear morning melodies of phones and alarm clocks

       RING RING

Cats and dogs meow and bow wow


“Grandma, please let’s go to the playground right now!”

We cross at the stripes of the crosswalk ahead

Like a piano, it plinks and plays notes in my head


Baby comes along in her squeaky-wheeled stroller


It’s the same one I used—a stroller do-over!

We stroll past the whir of washing machines

       WHIR WHIR

past drumming and strumming and musicians’ dreams


past the rustle of tall trees dotting the street


I hope at the playground, there’ll be friends to meet

The chain link fence rattles when a ball hits its side


I see Lanh and Aisha—we’ll take turns on the slide

         HI, FRIENDS!

The shudder of the hoop when Jerome sinks the ball


The swish of Luis’s paint on the brick mural wall

            SWISH SWISH

The click of the jump rope on the hot sidewalk

             CLICK CLICK

as Mr. Green and Señor Silva on the stoop laugh and talk.

             HA HA HA

Now off to the library for Storytime

On Grandma’s soft lap, I hear a story in rhyme

Borrowed books tightly stuffed in my backpack

Suddenly, I’m hungry. I need a snack!

The crunch of my carrot from our neighborhood plot


The pounding of builders in a nearby lot 

           POUND POUND

The groans of buses, the rumble of the subway 

             GROAN GROAN 

             RUMBLE RUMBLE

bringing mamas and papas home to play!

Those mamas and papas reading bedtime books

in our beds, our chairs and our reading nooks

in so many languages heard below and above

blending together in a chorus of love

The mwahs, chuiks  and chups of their goodnight kisses

that land on each cheek—there are no misses 

As they tuck the blanket snugly around

I’m thinking those kisses are the very best sound.


Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

We wish to present the City as a welcoming one for children and families of many nationalities with so much to see and do and hear (especially hear!), but the very best part of any day in the City is coming home to hear a story lovingly read by mama and papa and getting tucked into bed with a kiss.

Share your suggested book title

Sounds of the City

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

We would like to expose urban 0-3 yo children to new words related to the sounds and sights around them. We used Tier 1 words, but many others as well. The early introduction of babies and toddlers to books and words gets them started for success in school and in life. Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate among the nation's big cities, and children growing up in poverty typically reach kindergarten with a more limited vocabulary.  It needs to be appreciated that so much brain growth occurs in the first few years of life. By age 3, unfortunately, it is thought that children growing up in poor families may hear up to 30 mill. fewer words than those growing up in more economically well off families and enter school at a disadvantage. It is important to address this problem by making books accessible and teaching caregivers to expose young children to interactive reading. This story’s ensemble of images and sounds begs for interaction via questions, acting, and making funny sounds.

Location: Country


Location: State or Department

MA and PA

Location: City

Boston and Philadelphia

Tell us more about you / your team

Susan Robbins MD MPH is a pediatrician who worked for many years in inner city health centers, caring for multi-ethnic and typically very indigent families. She has been involved with Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia, and has been a health and safety consultant/advisor to a number of child care centers along with Early Head Start and Head Start programs. She truly enjoys living in Philadelphia and values the great importance of fostering early childhood literacy. Deborah F. Spitz MD is a retired physician who has treated both adults and children, a musician (piano and voice) and writer (poems and stories for adults and children), who worked with Dr. Robbins from 1980-82 in a Philadelphia group medical practice. Drs. Spitz and Robbins have continued their friendship since that time. Dr. Spitz has a great interest in psychology in general and, specifically, the power of love, security and comfort to increase the ability to learn.

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

Illustrations by Ezra Keats, Vanessa Brantley-Newton or Kevin Henkes demonstrate illustration styles that would work well. We envision the illustrations to include bubbles with the sounds mentioned or suggested (Ring! Ring! / Meow, Bow wow/ Hi, Friends! / Click, Click/ Ha Ha/ Crunch, Crunch/Pound, Pound/Groan/ Rumble/ etc.).

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • No

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia announcement

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • As readers, we want all children to enjoy the knowledge and imaginary worlds that books provide.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kelly Andrews

Your rhyme is really good and I can hear the sounds in my head. Fun to read aloud.

View all comments