In 2008, Founder and Executive Director Brian Floriani left his job as a golf professional to become a reading paraprofessional for Shiloh Park Elementary in Zion, Illinois. The sudden death of his father, Dr. Bernard P. Floriani for whom Bernie’s Book Bank is named, inspired him to do something different with his life.
Brian’s father was a self-made man – the son of a coal miner who grew up in a house without running water until he went to college on a basketball scholarship. He may not have had much, but he did have access to books. Big Bernie achieved a college and doctorate degree, and spent his entire professional life promoting literacy.
As a reading paraprofessional, Brian spent every day tutoring struggling readers. It wasn’t long before he realized that, while he could help each child individually, his efforts and those of thousands of other reading paraprofessionals across America wouldn’t do anything to stop the flow of struggling readers from entering school every year.
Brian’s experience with these children consumed him! He then understood the importance of what his father knew — that reading is the single most important skill a child needs to learn in order to contribute and function competently within our society. Furthermore, he realized that all of these children probably could have been great readers if they had been provided access to books at home and entered kindergarten “reading ready.”
In December 2009, Bernie’s Book Bank was founded in Brian’s garage, and he began collecting and redistributing bags of children’s books to at-risk children. In its first 12 months, Bernie’s Book Bank collected, processed and redistributed 140,000 children’s books. In its second year, Bernie’s Book Bank expanded its operation and reach, and distributed 350,000 books to more than 35,000 children.
In 2012, Bernie’s Book Bank will collect, process and redistribute more than 600,000 children’s books and expand the number of children served to 50,000. By 2013, we plan to be distributing 1 MILLION books per year in the Chicago area alone, and then to expand to other cities.
As a non-profit organization funded entirely by generous individuals and caring companies, Bernie’s Book Bank cannot succeed without the support of many book donors, volunteers, and financial donors. Working together, we are transforming the educational journeys of thousands of at-risk children, and providing them the opportunities to succeed that all children should have.