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Story Time on Every Floor

A musical, rhythmic book in which each apartment holds a story, and each story brings families closer together.

Photo of Julia Levy

Written by

Beep, boom, slam, pound —

Out the window, city sounds.


But in our building, door to door,

It’s story time on every floor.


Mama, Tia, Cuz and Gran, our neighbor Jo and Grandpa Stan, 

Read the titles, open books, For Ji and Kai, Jazmín and Brooks.


Giant castles, frozen lands, roaring lions, yellow sands.

Firefighters, sneaky mice, a rainy day, a pizza slice.


A finger prick! A tiny boy! An ugly duck! A wooden toy!

A bird, a fox, a hen, a goat, a train, a car, a plane, a boat!


Count it, rhyme it, point it out, 

Whisper, whistle, sing and shout!


“Please,” says Zoe, “just one more?”

“OK,” says Mama, “That makes four.”


Magic spells and tricky smiles, bumblebees and crocodiles.

A talking pigeon, tall giraffe, a jumping cow, a noisy laugh.


Chugging, climbing, leaping high, up a mountain, to the sky…

Last page, picture, bye-bye, friend. It’s time for us to say “The End.”


Dante, Liza, and Philippe! 

The story's done; now time for sleep!


Let’s close our book. Turn off the light.

That’s all for now. Let’s say, “Good night.” 

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

We want our manuscript to showcase the diversity of families and the magic of stories to connect people to each other and the world.

Share your suggested book title

Story Time on Every Floor

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

Academic research (which informs this project) is unequivocal: reading to children, from their earliest days, builds receptive and expressive language skills and creates bonds between parents and children. Reading and other interactions fuel the growth of the neural connections that kids need throughout life. Our story is meant to be read aloud. We chose to start with onomatopoeia in order to grab the attention of 0-3 year olds, and we hold their attention with playful rhymes. Rhymes naturally lend themselves to a rhythmic, musical reading style, which is engaging to young children, whether they already understand every word or not. In slightly older children, rhymes facilitate engagement with the text and the caregiver, as children can guess how to complete the rhymes. We also integrate directives into the text for built-in interaction, and we include a number of Tier I nouns with corresponding pictures to encourage caregivers to point and develop joint attention.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

Julia grew up just outside of Philadelphia. She has many memories of being a kid in and around the city — climbing through the giant heart at the Franklin Institute, going to children's concerts at the orchestra, sketching at the PMA, running/biking/rowing along the Schuylkill River, and merging onto I-76 for the first time...She still has many friends in and around Philadelphia.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

In our work, we have seen a clear shortage of stories that resonate with the urban families we serve. We have crafted our manuscript with an eye toward the experiences and needs of people living in urban areas. While many children’s books depict children living in houses or animals living on farms, we chose to set our story in a crowded apartment building. Although space is limited, love is not. We hope to convey the social bonds that exist not only within, but between, apartments. The building as a whole is a big, vibrant community. We hope that our characters’ names and the diverse families represented in our illustrations will allow city kids to recognize themselves in our story.

Location: Country

United States

Location: State or Department

New York

Location: City

New York City

Tell us more about you / your team

CARA SPITALEWITZ, PhD has been working with children in NYC for almost two decades. She received a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she was an Urban Scholar focusing on child poverty. She is currently a child & adolescent psychologist at Bellevue Hospital Center, the oldest public hospital in the country, and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. JULIA LEVY has been working with NYC children/families for 15 years. She is currently the Director of Product & Play for Sparkler, a startup promoting healthy early child and brain development, working with high-needs U.S. families. She previously ran a successful crowd-funding campaign to self publish DONNY THE BULLY, an anti-bullying book she wrote and illustrated, inspired by negative politics. She graduated from Dartmouth and Columbia Business School, and is the mom of two (amazing!) young boys.

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

Julia drew this illustration using Adobe Sketch on her iPad. The view through the families' windows evokes both the diversity of the city and the similarities that bring people together. Surprising, fantastical things seen through some windows (a whale and a dinosaur, a mountain and a rainbow...) hint at the transporting magic of stories.

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

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

Julia's publications: Donny the Bully (2017), US Education Reform and National Security (2012) ~850 published articles in The New York Sun, The Financial Times, Hearst Newspapers, and more on education, policy, and development

Do you have an agent?

  • No

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

  • OpenIDEO announcement email

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists
  • I am/we are a formal part of a University or Research Institution


Join the conversation:

Photo of Stephanie Hanson

I love how you integrated a variety of urban families into the story! The rhythm and rhyme of the story make it fun to read, and enjoyable to read over and over. You've also packed alot of vocabulary and fun talking points into your manuscript. Great story!

Photo of Julia Levy

Thank you so much! We appreciate your comment!

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