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Bernie’s Book Bank Mission

Bernie’s Book Bank creates pathways to success through book ownership. We empower children to gain knowledge, explore new ideas, and strengthen reading skills.

Reading is the single most important skill a child needs. Yet many children lack access to books, especially books of their own. That’s why Bernie’s Book Bank works so hard to provide free quality books to children in our local areas to build personal libraries. We believe that books and book ownership create pathways to success. With the help of hundreds of volunteers and donors each year, Bernie’s Book Bank is transforming children’s stories.

Our Purpose

Enable positive life experiences through books and book ownership.

Our Vision

We envision a future where every child has equal access to books and the opportunities they inspire.

What We Do

In order to accomplish all of this, we source, process, and distribute eight books annually to children, ages birth through sixth grade. Bernie’s Book Bank focuses on under-resourced communities—where children are the least likely to have access to books of their own—and delivers the age-appropriate, high-interest, and culturally relevant books children deserve. 

Since 2009, Bernie’s Book Bank has distributed more than 25 MILLION free children’s books in counties including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will.

Our Legacy

Bernie’s Book Bank is named for Dr. Bernard P. Floriani, the father of Founder, Brian Floriani, Bernie Floriani, Jr. and Lindsey Floriani Arterburn. Bernie 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 and the opportunity for a good education.

Big Bernie achieved a bachelor’s, a master’s and a doctorate degree in reading education. He spent his entire professional life promoting literacy. In 2005, Brian was a lead instructor for Golf Digest Schools in Lake Tahoe and West Palm Beach. The sudden death of his father, Bernie, inspired him to do something different with his life.

Brian began working as a reading paraprofessional for Shiloh Park Elementary in Zion, Illinois. He spent every day tutoring struggling readers. It wasn’t long before Brian realized that, while he could help each child individually at the elementary school level, his efforts and those of thousands of other reading paraprofessionals across America wouldn’t do anything to stop the influx of new struggling readers from entering the school system every year.

He now understood the importance of what his father knew — that reading is the single most important skill a child needs in order to contribute and function competently within our society. Furthermore, he realized that all of these children probably could have been “reading ready” if they had been provided access to books at home before entering Kindergarten.

In December 2009, Bernie’s Book Bank was founded in Brian’s garage as this was where he began sourcing and redistributing books to local children. In its first 12 months, Bernie’s Book Bank sourced, processed and distributed 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.

By the end of 2012, the number of children’s books Bernie’s Book Bank had sourced, processed and distributed reached 1 MILLION. In 2019, we reached 15 MILLION! In 2023, we reached a huge milestone of 25 MILLION books distributed since 2009!

We do this by sourcing millions of new and gently used books from our generous donors. We level them into age-appropriate groups, place an identifying sticker on them and then select a variety of 8 new and gently used titles to be placed into a bag for distribution. We then deliver each bag of books directly to the children we serve via the school districts and early childhood programs in the Chicagoland area. In one year, each child we serve will receive a total of 8 quality children’s books to take home and call their own.

As a non-profit organization funded entirely by generous individuals, foundations and caring companies, Bernie’s Book Bank cannot succeed without the support of many book donors, volunteers, and investors. Working together, we are transforming children’s stories by empowering them to explore new ideas, gain knowledge, and strengthen reading skills through book ownership. Learn more.

How Can You Help? It’s Easy…

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I love to read. Always have. Always will. Books are my passion.

I love to look at them, touch them, feel them, much more. I love to read them-lots of them!

Dr. Bernard P. Floriani, Sr.

Educator & Book Lover