Bernie’s Book Bank, the non-profit organization dedicated to increasing book ownership among under-served infants, toddlers and school-age children throughout Chicagoland, announced strategic partnerships with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Northern Illinois Food Bank in response to COVID-19 needs and response efforts. The organization will continue to distribute free quality children’s books as an integral part of distance learning programs for schools city-wide as well as at the Food Bank’s Pop-Up Market food distributions.

“Books are needed now more than ever,” said Bernie’s Book Bank Chief Executive Officer Darrin Utynek. “Many Chicagoland children struggle to access quality reading materials during a normal school year, much less while their schools are closed, making the books we provide an essential way to maintain reading skills as well as provide inspiration and comfort during these difficult times.”

Since March 16, Bernie’s Book Bank has transitioned its normal distribution process from in-school delivery to “no contact drop-offs” for organizations tasked with delivering essential goods such as food to families in need. To date, the organization has provided more than 250,000 free books for Chicagoland children; Bernie’s Book Bank expects that number to increase to nearly 500,000 in the coming weeks. Most recently 90,000 books were distributed to 29 Chicago Public Schools locations.

“Access to books at home is critically important to children’s academic development,” said Chicago Public Schools’ Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade. “We thank Bernie’s Book Bank for their generous efforts to help the district expand access to books to families in need.”

Additionally, Bernie’s Book Bank distributed 13,500 books to nearly 2,250 families at Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Pop-Up market in Gurnee on May 9, 2020.

“We are thrilled to have Bernie’s Book Bank join our Pop-Up Markets to distribute amazing books to our families,” said Northern Illinois Food Bank President & CEO Julie Yurko. “Not only are we able to nourish their bodies with nutritious groceries, but we’re able to nourish the minds of our youngest neighbors with these books during this critical time.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, Bernie’s Book Bank is dedicated to growing and evolving their response efforts.

“For the past 10 years we have worked to support 900+ community partners and we will do everything in our power to continue serving the children who depend on us for their books,” said Utynek.

On March 12, 2020 Bernie’s Book Bank suspended volunteer operations and adjusted operations at its distribution center in Lake Bluff for the safety of its employees and the 40,000 volunteers of all ages that typically process books for families in need. Bernie’s Book Bank leaders and staff also instituted additional cleaning procedures and took all steps to adhere to guidance from state and local health officials to continue processing books safely.

On March 20, 2020 Bernie’s Book Bank launched the “Change their Story Campaign.” For every $12 donated to Bernie’s Book Bank, the organization can provide a year’s worth of quality books to a child in need. Bernie’s Book Bank is asking everyone throughout Chicagoland to consider making a donation and spread the word through social networks from the safety of their homes. Learn more at www.berniesbookbank.org/change-their-story.

About Bernie’s Book Bank
Founded as a 501(c)(3) in September of 2009, Bernie’s Book Bank has sourced, processed and distributed more than 18 million quality new and gently used children’s books to under-served infants, toddlers and school-age children throughout Chicagoland. Each year, Bernie’s Book Bank delivers twelve free quality books to children through their schools and early childhood programs. The mission is to increase book ownership among under-served children to enable and empower them in their pursuit of a brighter future and a better life through reading. For more information about Bernie’s Book Bank, visit www.berniesbookbank.org.

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