Funded! This project was successfully funded on March 16, 2012.


Imagine a curriculum mandating the teaching of local history when no book exists to help teachers do that! We have the book.

SummaryA book on Chicago history written at the 3rd-grade level (give or take a couple years) that takes a creative, investigative approach to the topic and encourages further exploration of Chicago history out and about in the city itself. It also happens to fill a gaping hole in local public education, giving educators a much-needed text (none exists at the moment) to help them meet state-mandated curriculum requirements for this age level.

The PredicamentImagine state curriculum requirements mandating the teaching of local history to third or fourth graders, but not having a text book or educator resources to assist in accomplishing that. For years. For decades. Such is the case with Chicago history and the Chicago Public School system and other school systems in the region.

Enter a Devoted and Innovative EducatorImagine a teacher with an evolving passion for the subject of Chicago history and a desire to solve this lack of materials problem so that she can do her job well…

Renee Kreczmer: “I embarked on this project 15 years ago, when I taught my first group of third grade students the exciting history of Chicago. I didn’t know much at first, but the more I learned, the more I hungered to know more! Stored in my memory banks is information from countless tours of historic city sites and museums, books, articles, dusty old volumes from the Chicago History Museum’s Research Center, classes, videos, movies, exploration trips with parents, friends, and students, e-mails to historians, and many, many hours surfing the web.

It has been my ongoing goal to find a way to get kids as excited about social studies as they are about science. I thought about hands-on experimenting, but that didn’t lend itself to the social studies curriculum. Then I began to use photographs with discussion for students who didn’t read well. That’s when the idea of students making ‘predictions’ during the photo presentations occurred to me.  From there, the idea of analyzing and interpreting cartoons, artifacts, photographs, data, and works of art grew. A newly purchased science series comprised of investigations gave me the idea for just the right format. 

I began using investigations to guide students through the fascinating history that formed the awesome city of Chicago.  Each investigation opens with a question, e.g., ‘Is this a good location to build a community?’ or ‘What effect did the Great Fire have on the spirit of Chicago?’ An artifact or photograph with analysis questions helps lead students to a conclusion. We then explore additional information to check those conclusions.”

The Passion and Ms. Kreczmer’s Reputation GrowYear after year her materials improve. Year after year, more students and their parents and other educators learn of and appreciate the power of Ms. Kreczmer’s enthusiasm, her knowledge, and her tested and refined approach.

A Meeting of Like MindsIn 2009, a long-time fan and supporter of Lake Claremont Press introduced Renee Kreczmer to publisher Sharon Woodhouse. Woodhouse, having known about CPS teachers’ lack of a text in this area for years, took one look at Kreczmer’s bulging binders of Chicago artifacts, transparencies, and other custom-made classroom materials, and said, “Make it a book!”

The BookFourteen investigations make up the chapters of Just Add Water, exploring the prairies of various Illinois tribes and early settlement through Chicago politics and A Century of Progress. Following Kreczmer’s classroom strategy, each investigation asks questions that lead students to draw their own conclusions. By reading the rest of the chapter, students discover whether or not their conclusions are correct. In this way, students learn not only Chicago history but age-appropriate social studies skills, and vocabulary, as well. Along the way, students collect a star for each correct conclusion.

Each chapter concludes with suggestions for related historic outings and further exploring in Chicago.

Just Add Water is richly illustrated with maps, drawings, color photographs, and historic artifacts.

While designed primarily to meet a real need of Chicago’s elementary school social studies teachers, Just Add Water is not strictly a textbook and can be enjoyed by all school-aged children living in or visiting Chicago.

StatusJust Add Water has been written. The material has been well-received by instruction and curriculum folks in the CPS, and been critically reviewed by several of Kreczmer’s peers in the Chicago and suburban public school systems. The design and editing are being polished as you read this.

The PublisherAs for Lake Claremont Press, we are an independent publisher in Chicago specializing in books on the Chicago area and its history, by authors with specific Chicago passions and organizations with Chicago-centric missions. We've published over 50 books and garnered almost 30 small press awards since our founding in 1994, always with a staff of only one to four people and some terrific freelance editorial and design pros.

With every book we try something new--to give our readers something different and appealing; to broaden our horizons and keep things interesting; or simply because circumstances dictate. We switch up formats, sizes, paper stocks, cover styles, editorial approaches, author voices. We customize marketing campaigns or re-invent them from scratch. We find co-publishers, sell like crazy in advance, enter into creative partnerships. We had our first Kickstarter success last year with The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats. This time, we're on Kickstarter raising $10K for our first full-color book, in service of the schoolkids of Chicagoland and the future appreciation and knowledge of local history.

The PartyWe will celebrate the release of Just Add Water on a downtown tour boat on the Chicago River some time between late June and late July 2012. Party tickets will include the boat ride, appetizers, book-related fun, gift bags, and general schmoozing with like-minded Chicagoans (cash bar available). Our previous boat parties have sold out fast. Priority attendance for this party will be given to Kickstarter supporters rewarded with a ticket for their donation to the cause.

Thank you! Please look to the right to discover your Chicago identity and learn more about the rewards for supporting Just Add Water.

The Amazing Ms. Renee Kreczmer AgainA student and teacher of Chicago's exciting history for 15 years, Renee Kreczmeris a social studies teacher for the Chicago Public Schools. She has attended educational workshops with the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago History Museum, completed coursework in Chicago history at Roosevelt University, and frequented countless museums, historic sites, history tours, and historical reenactments in her 15-year effort to discover the best materials and methods for teaching the mandated Chicago curriculum to her third-grade students. She shares much of that knowledge and experience in Just Add Water: The Making of the City of Chicago. Ms. Kreczmer has also assisted in social studies curriculum development for the Chicago Public Schools.


  • We are more than happy to accommodate your interest in more books or more boat tickets! Do the math based on available options, choose the reward that makes most sense, and drop me an email with your "order." We'll keep track of it and deliver accordingly. Many thanks!

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  • Maybe. Space is limited on the boat and tickets will be given first to those who choose it as their reward here. There will plenty of opportunities, however, to celebrate Renee's achievement in the months and years ahead.

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  • No, however, these are likely the best prices at which to do so.

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  • Please send us a message and we can work it out. Many thanks.

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  • Yes, please email us for our special flyer just for schools.

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    --CPS: Hibbard school (30 copies)

    --CPS: Hyat school (30 copies)

    --CPS: Lincoln school (30 copies)

    --CPS: Peterson school (30 copies)

    --CPS: Sauganash school (30 copies)

    --CPS: Walt Disney Magnet school (30 copies)

    --St. John Fisher School (30 copies)


    --Avoca West Elementary School, Glenview (3 copies)

    --Betsy Ross School, Forest Park (3 copies)

    --CPS: Bell school library (1 copy)

    --CPS: Blaine school library (1 copy)

    --CPS: Peterson school library (3 copies)

    --CPS: Roosevelt H.S. library (3 copies)

    --CPS: Sauganash school library (2 copies)

    --CPS: South Loop school library (3 copies)

    --CPS: Water school library (3 copies)

    --Hatch School, Oak Park (1 copy)

    --Hollywood School, Brookfield (1 copy)

    --St. Benedict Grade School library (3 copies)

    --St. Benedict High School library (1 copy)

    --St. Gregory's High School library (1copy)

    --St. Hilary's Grade School library (1 copy)

    --Walt Whitman School library, Wheeling (3 copies)


    --CPL: Budlong Woods (1 copy)

    --CPL: Edgebrook branch (3 copies)

    --Fox Lake District Library (3 copies)

    --Riverside Library, Riverside (1 copy)

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  • Absolutely. It's been brought to our attention that many Chicago-area high schools could use a book on local history written at a basic level, so we're broadening our scope to include them as well.

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    The Mrs. O'Leary. No bum rap here...A shout-out in the Lake Claremont Press monthly e-newsletter. Thanks for the boost to public education.

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    The Renee Kreczmer. One copy of "Just Add Water" shipped straight to you, signed by Ms. Kreczmer herself. Your grade: A+

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    The Jane Addams. Donate three copies of "Just Add Water" to your local public library branch. We'll send a handwritten note with your gift.

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    The Ida B. Wells. Donate three copies of "Just Add Water" to your local elementary school's library. We'll send a handwritten note with your gift.

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    The Captain Streeter. One ticket on the party boat for the "Just Add Water" book release party. Food, boat tour, and schmoozing included. If you attended our release party for "The Chicago River Architecture Tour," you know to prepare for a rocking time on the waterways of Streeterville.

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    The Bertha Palmer. Be a darling and send a copy to three different young readers you know at different addresses. We'll send your calling card and well wishes.

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    The Machine. One copy of the book (autographed and shipped in May) and one party boat ticket. Thanks for your vote, here's a party.

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    The Daniel Burnham. Donate two books, get one for yourself, and get a ticket to the party boat. Now that's a Plan for Chicago.

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    The World's Columbian Exposition (1893) and A Century of Progress (1933). Two tickets on the party boat for you and someone significant in honor of two very important Chicago events.

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    Rebekah Wells Heald and Captain Heald. Donate 30 copies (a classroom set) to a school near you and receive two tickets for the party boat, where we'll toast your pioneering spirit and generosity. Don't know the Healds? One more reason the next generation needs this book.

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    Chief Black Partridge. You, rescuing early Chicago. Donate 1,000 copies to a suburban school district or to the city schools nearest you. We'll give you ten tickets for the party boat and announce your philanthropic kindness with a press release to your local paper and the news outlets where the school is located.

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    The Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable. A Chicago original. Fund the separate development of educator resources to accompany the book. And if you want to go Oprah (or insert your name/foundation here), talk to us about $110,000, which will fund one copy for each of the 53,000 3rd graders in the Chicago Public School System. If you're going Oprah, we'll throw in 100 party boat tickets; your name or foundation name will be printed in each book; and we'll mount a PR campaign to tell the whole of Chicagoland how you singlehandedly closed this particular loophole in local public education.

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- (50 days)