Bernie's Book Bank provides books for underprivileged kids

Organization delivers to students at Meadowdale Elementary School

CARPENTERSVILLE – Brian Floriani is on a mission to get kids to love reading.

To do that, he knew he would have to get books in the hands of children who don’t have access to them, and Thursday he gave each of the 450 students at Meadowdale Elementary School six books to take home and enjoy.

In 2009, Floriani started Bernie’s Book Bank, an organization designed to give books to underprivileged kids. Since the start of Bernie’s Book Bank, Floriani has given away more than 1.6 million books to children in the Chicago area. When Floriani partners with a school, the book bank comes twice a year and continues the relationship with the school year after year.

“Books and words are the lifeblood to a child’s future,” Floriani said. “Book ownership is critical.”

Floriani said he knew the problem wasn’t a shortage of books but rather a distribution issue.

“It’s not a supply issue. It’s a logistics issue,” he said. “That’s what we do. We look at this as a logistical bridge between where books are not being used and where they are desperately needed.”

Thursday marked the beginning of Meadowdale’s partnership with Bernie’s Book Bank. Two other District 300 schools, Perry Elementary and Lakewood School, also recently partnered with the organization.

“It’s kind of like Christmas in August,” said Jack Melfi, principal of Meadowdale. “I know that they don’t have a lot of books at home. For them to walk out of here with six books that they get to read at home, and they get to keep, that’s phenomenal.”

Schools have to have at least 50 percent of their students on free or reduced lunches to be eligible for Bernie’s Book Bank. Meadowdale is at 93 percent, Melfi said.

Bernie’s Book Bank gets its books from publisher overruns and large-scale book drives that it hold at schools. The book bank often collects between 4,000 and 5,000 books at the drives, Floriani said.

Floriani’s goal is to get kids reading as early as possible and to continue a culture of reading for as long as they’re in school.

“If we can get kids reading ready when they show up to school, the world would be a different place,” he said.

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