Bernie's Book Bank announces special new partnerships

  • Bernie's Book Bank distributes free books to families at the Northern Illinois Food Bank Pop-Up Market.

    Bernie's Book Bank distributes free books to families at the Northern Illinois Food Bank Pop-Up Market. Courtesy of Susan Ryan Kalina

Updated 5/21/2020 12:27 PM

Bernie's Book Bank, the nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing book ownership among underserved infants, toddlers and school-age children throughout Chicagoland, announced strategic partnerships with Chicago Public Schools 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 citywide, as well as at the Food Bank's Pop-Up 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," Chicago Public Schools' Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade said.

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"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.

"We are thrilled to have Bernie's Book Bank join our Pop-Up Markets to distribute amazing books to our families," Northern Illinois Food Bank President & CEO Julie Yurko said.

"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 its response efforts.

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


On March 12, 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.

On March 20, 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.

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