Family Fun

Meet the Woman Making Kids’ Reading Classes Cool

Photo by Maura Stoffer/Courtesy of Big City Readers

As a parent, you’re forever seeking kid-friendly stuff to do. You’re also likely attempting to maintain your sanity and a shred of a social life. These concepts are mutually exclusive. But do they have to be? Surely there must be adult-friendly things to do with the family, right? You know, activities that you’d actually enjoy taking your kids to.

Such activities do in fact exist, and we found the source: children’s literacy biz Big City Readers. Beth Gaskill, a stylish firecracker of a 20-something, owns the Logan Square–based company. The former elementary school teacher leads ultrapopular weekly sensory and reading classes, but has gained a following of grateful parents for her kick-ass pop-ups—events that pack the house at spots like Antique Taco, Paulie Gee’s, and Parson’s. She engages kiddos with well-curated books and interactive songs, and lures parents with the promise of socialization, perhaps shopping (she’s hosted soirées at Eskell and Birdseye Rule), and booze.

Photo by Maura Stoffer/Courtesy of Big City Readers

“Everyone wants connection and belonging,” says Miss Beth (as she’s lovingly dubbed by her hordes of tiny fans), whose goal, beyond getting kids to love books, is to help build community among city-dwelling moms and dads. She’s clearly got the networking thing down, as her endless connections are what allow her to host events at such A-list venues. And while she doesn’t have her own kiddos yet, she totally gets it. “I just want to remind parents that I see that they are still humans who probably want to have some fun on the weekends,” she says. Amen.

This summer, she’s ramped up the pop-ups to include a Big City Readers booth (with sensory stations and a mini library) at Lollapalooza and street fests, meaning you can totally justify toting the kids to those events.

Here’s what’s on the docket through August. Gaskill is apt to tack on more, so follow along on Instagram (@bigcityreaders) for the most up-to-date scoop.

July 9: Mini Mott
July 13: West Loop Block Party
July 14: Bucktown Garden Walk
July 20: Fieldhouse Jones
July 27: Wicker Park Fest
August 1 to 4: Lollapalooza
August 8: Peach Fuzz
August 15: Middle Brow Bungalow