Justice Mary Schostok and Judge Elizabeth Rochford, Co-Chairs

A project of the Illinois Judges Association, the reading program is aimed at children in grades K-4 to encourage the appreciation, value and enjoyment of reading. Judges dressed in their black robes will make classroom appearances, and read the book and discuss its intersection with history and the law. The book will be donated to the school library.

“Too many school children are not reading at grade level,” said Hon. Mary Schostok, a justice in the Appellate Court, Second District, and former president of the Illinois Judges Association. “This reading deficiency affects student learning and contributes to the high school dropout rate. Our reading project is one small step which we hope will inspire young students to appreciate the value of books as they learn a little about history and our system of justice directly from a sitting judge.”

Surveys by the Annie E. Casey Foundation have found that a significant percentage of fourth-graders from low-income families are not reading at grade level. Further, children who are proficient readers by the end of third grade have a greater chance to graduate from high school and become economically self-sufficient adults.

Abe Lincoln’s Hat, an illustrated account of the adventures of our nation’s 16th President, reveals the secrets he stored in his tall, black hat. The book portrays Lincoln as an absent-minded frontier lawyer who nudged his memory by sticking letters, court notes, contracts, and even his checkbook inside his trademark top hat.  

But, we are also excited to announce the introduction of two new books to our reading repertoire. The additions were especially chosen to expand the age group of the students, be more inclusive of diversity, and to honor the 100 year celebration of women's suffrage. The books are "Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman" by Monica Kulling;  "Malala: A Hero for All" by Shana Corey,  intended for students in grades 3-5, and ‘George Washington and the General’s Dog” by Frank Murphy, both intended for students in grades 1-3.  

The project is the latest in a series of community programs undertaken by the Illinois Judges Association that include the IJA’s Page It Forward reading and tutoring program. Other IJA programs are “Courtroom in the Classroom,” a presentation that celebrates the U.S. Constitution; “7 Reasons to Leave the Party,” covering the legal and personal consequences of drinking and driving, taking drugs, and engaging in other unhealthy behaviors; “Worries of the World Wide Web”, a program created to address the increasing problem of cyber bullying, electronic harassment, and sexting/pornography and “Your Future, Your Choice”, educate the students about the justice system, how a case goes through the system, whats the difference between the juvenile and the adult system and what are the crimes associated with the internet and social media.  Information on these programs can be found on the IJA website at


The Illinois Judges Association is a membership organization of 1,250 active and retired judges whose purpose is to foster public confidence in the independence of the judiciary, provide services and education to its members, and information about court operations to the public. Funding for the books was made possible by a grant from the Illinois Judges Foundation.