“Roux” Makes History for Literacy in Chicago as the First Gas Station in the Nation with a Purpose

​On the heels of Chicago’s historic inauguration of the first African American, female mayor, Lori Lightfoot, the city makes history once again — twice in one week — with the launch of the “Roux.

The Roux is a gas station and convenience store with a purpose located on the border of West Englewood and Chicago Lawn. In a community where some students are still in elementary school at the age of 15 and will enter high school without the ability to read, the Roux seeks to help rectify the situation. It will not only offer gas, but will also offer scholarships and resources, and will serve the community as a pipeline to literacy. Books will be available in the Roux for purchase and through donations.

Former mayor Richard M. Daley declared “Roopster Roux Day” in Chicago on September 28, 1998. Roopster Roux’s motto is, “​Reading can be as much fun as a slam dunk,a touchdown or a home run!” ​More than 30 cities have adopted Roopster Roux Day to promote reading and literacy since 2008.

Lavaille Lavette, creator and publisher of the Roopster Roux book series, is an educator and former public-school administrator. Lavette stated that, “We are very pleased that Chicago in the 17th ward is the first site in the nation for the Roopster Roux motto.”

Lavette explained that Roopster Roux and the Roux gas station/convenience store collective is partnering with Chicago Public Schools, faith-based organizations and community organizations to expand youth reading opportunities. For instance, various corporations and NFL and NBA athletes have encouraged literacy through incentivized youth reading competitions. Schools with the most books read can receive a party with a celebrity athlete.

“It’s not just about reading comprehension; we need youth writing fluently. [We] will incentivize written story summaries and continue to complement Roopster Roux programs with essay competitions, stories and books to discover the next generation of authors,” stated Lavette.

Roux convenience stores will feature unique community outreach programs, including the Roux All-Star Reading Team Literacy Club, various neighborhood school and university events, as well as contests and promotions centered around literacy and parental involvement. There will also be Roux character reading events and other Roux character appearances, sports activities, unique store product mix including a Roux Unique Finds Section and partnerships with professional athletes and celebrities.

Alderman David Moore (17th Ward – Chicago) said he is making sure we engage the community so that our children have access and learn about literacy.

Moore stated, “It’s not just a regular gas station; it’s a community space to make sure that we bring businesses with a purpose to our community.”

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Alderman Moore introduced community partner Rami Nashashibi, executive director of ​Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)​.

“Our families and communities should get the type of rights and access to a dignified lifestyle as any resident in the city of Chicago. IMAN is a partner with anyone that is ready to do right by the community and counter the decades of disinvestment in our community,” stated Nashashibi. “It’s important that leadership in businesses like Roux reflect the communities in which they are serving. We are grateful that these developers are committed to principles and serve the holistic needs of our broader community.

Deputy District Director Gerard Moorer (7th Congressional District – Congressman Danny K. Davis), stated, “Mohammed Abdalah is a member of the congressman’s Multi-Ethnic Task Force (MEATF). We are thankful that Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, founder of Congressman Danny K. Davis’ MEATF, and Mr. Abdalah came together to create this model with Lavaille Lavette.

Moorer thanked Alderman Moore for bringing this concept into his ward.

“We look forward to bringing this model to the west side of Chicago,” Moorer said.

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