61% of low-income households do not have a single children's book at home.
That's why Open Books provides in-classroom lending librarues and book grants to schools and nonprofits across Chicago through our Book Worm Angels program.
In the last 20 years, young adults have become the least likely group to read literature.
That's why Open Books stocks a huge selection of amazing and affordable donated books for young adults in our award-winning bookstore.
Statistics from: Literacy Chicago, The National Center For Family Literacy, The National Institute For Literacy, The National Endowment For The Arts, and Belden Rusonello & Stewart/The Writing Project.
Who We Are
We’re an energetic, enterprising, and just slightly eccentric group. Get to know us!
Thirtysomething years ago, Stacy learned to read. This life-changing experience led to degrees in law and literature, allowed her to help take three startup companies from idea through a combined total of $30 million in committed venture funding, and finally inspired her to start Open Books in her basement in 2006. She is delighted to have received an Emerging Leader Fellowship from the Chicago Community Trust, a place on NewCity's Lit 50 List, the Social Enterprise Alliance's Innovation award, and recognition on the White House's official blog for "spreading the infinite and awesome power of books," but is most proud just to be part of the incredible things that the team, students, volunteers, and supporters of Open Books make happen every day.
Stacy writes a novel every year, eats ice cream every day, and is always starting something. And, yes: her hair really is green.
Natalie has spent most of her career dedicated to improving educational outcomes for underserved students. Her time with NewSchools Venture Fund and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools offered insight into the urgent need to transform K-12 public education. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in Economics. Natalie currently serves as the Board Chairperson of Lighthouse Academies and as a Wish Granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois. She reads Jane Eyre annually from one of her many prized copies of the book, and her favorite living authors include Ann Patchett and Richard Russo.
Anna recently graduated from the University of Chicago with her MA in English. She was raised in Park City, Utah, and although she misses the mountains, she's excited about life in Chicago's urban metropolis. When she's not at Open Books, Anna can be found reading, writing, or hauling her giant camera around the streets of Chicago, taking blurry pictures and chasing rabbits. Her favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Milan Kundera, Vladimir Nabokov, and WG Sebald.
After several years of test driving regions throughout the US, Jessica is ready to come back home to where it all began. She first started her traveling adventures by heading to the west coast where she attended Stanford University to study Sociology. Then she trekked to the east coast to teach middle school Literacy, high school English and Healthy Relationships workshops throughout Philadelphia. Now that she’s tried the rest, she is ready for the best of what Chicago has to offer. Throughout these long distance moves she has discovered three loves of her life 1) yoga 2) Mr. Pickles and Luna (her two dogs) and 3) anything written by Virginia Woolf.
Cary was born and raised in Chicago and is happy to have found her home at Open Books, slowly weaseling her way in to the Open Books family -- first as a VWrite mentor, then as an Associate Board member, and finally as a staff member. She holds a BA in Elementary Education from Augustana College and a Masters Degree in literacy from DePaul University. She loves to travel, is obsessed with all things Irish, and is always starting up some new hobby or project. She also loves to read, but please don’t ask her what her favorite book is -- it’s just too hard to pick!
Mike joined Open Books in September 2013 and brought the organization he’d headed for 9 years, Book Worm Angels, with him. Mike brings a wide range of business and nonprofit experience to the party, including stints as the first ad sales manager of The Weather Channel, Advertising Director of the Sherwin-Williams Company, and, with his wife, Jean, starting a pioneering concept in staffing with their national company, Paladin -- placing marketing and advertising executives into contract positions. Mike is an active cyclist, night school graduate from a college in Cleveland that’s been swallowed up by two other larger universities (from back when the word "smart" didn’t refer to phones…or automobiles), proud dad of three wonderful children, grandpa to two awesome junior hockey players, committed friend to literacy, and President of the Chicago Literacy Alliance -- there go the nights and weekends.
Kevin began his reading life at two years old when his father would read him his favorite book before bedtime. When his father was particularly tired and would skip words, Kevin insisted upon re-reading the story in its entirety. This enthusiasm and care for the written word and the people who read it carries him through his days. On most of these days, you can find him in the Open Books Store, locating the perfect book for you. Other days, he is probably wandering Chicago in search of decent conversation, hidden culinary gems and the perfect addition to his record collection. He has worked as a library page, printer, research assistant and event coordinator. He also once worked in a clothing factory where he organized jeans in order by size for eight hours a day, so he knows something or other about numbers too.
Lizzy started as a volunteer in the Open Books store when it opened in November 2009. Stealthily worming her way into deeper involvement with them ever since, she now proudly claims the title of Bookstore Assistant Manager. Lizzy graduated from DePaul University with a degree in history in 2009. She wrote her honors thesis on llamas, and can discourse at length upon them. Did you know that llamas run a secret cabal that rules the earth? Lizzy can tell you about it (though she may have to kill you)! Her favorite authors are too many to name, but she collects Neil Gaiman memorabilia. In a shocking twist of fate, she got a tattoo of an open book on her foot in 2008; thus, it is proven that her involvement with Open Books was meant to be. The book remains untitled because her favorite book changes so often... and tattoos hurt. Lizzy is attempting (and currently failing) to learn to play the banjo. Most importantly, Lizzy loves reading more than any other thing (even breathing!) and is incredibly lucky to discuss books with Open Books customers all day!
Alice started out as a volunteer at the Open Books Bookstore, and was thrilled to be offered a position as a staff member. Alice has lived most of her life in Chicago, with brief sojourns to Texas and California when she was a toddler and Boston when she was a college student. In between dodging crazed Red Sox fans and even more crazed trolleys she managed to earn a degree in Linguistics, so if you say hello to her in a foreign language she may understand you. After a lifetime of reading science fiction and fantasy she has recently discovered the joys of non-fiction, so recommendations in either vein are most welcome! Her current contenders for the title of Favorite Book are Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog and Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union.
Aaron recently graduated from the extremely dirty world of industrial manufacturing. He previously attended Purdue University, where he graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He lived and worked in Belgium for a time, but couldn't learn to enjoy warm Coke Cola. As a result, he returned to the U.S. of A to dedicate his life to kindness.
Christina began volunteering at Open Books in the summer of 2011 and she’s thrilled to have infiltrated the staff. She graduated from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and enjoys having a good rant whenever correlation is confused with causation or whenever writers lie about how the brain works. Her passion for reading and writing manifested early in life. As a toddler she would scribble neat rows of gibberish next to her drawings and wander the house crying, “I want to read!” Once she did become literate, her love of the written word only became stronger. Although she is trying to read more stories set in the real world (or at least constrained by real-world physics), she prefers plots that feature zombies, time travel, or screwball comedy (ideally all three). In her spare time she writes fiction that she refuses to share with anyone.
Mary was born in Texas, raised in New York, schooled in Vermont, lost (briefly) in Idaho and eventually ended up here, in Chicago, where she studied English Literature for a long time. One day she'd like to teach high school English. When she's not working at the Open Books Warehouse, she can be found sitting on her porch looking into the Open Books Warehouse. Aside from creepin' on the warehouse folks, she enjoys reading (!), taking pictures, cooking and petting other people's dogs.
Howard is a native Chicagoan and graduate of Shimer College, where he received a B.A. in Humanities. After spending a year studying abroad in Oxford, England, he realized that academia was not the place for him and began volunteering at Open Books and Literacy Chicago to learn from and to serve disadvantaged and underprivileged communities. Because of this intent to learn and serve, Howard's reading material is primarily non-fiction - favorite topics of personal study include second- and third-wave feminism, German idealism, 19th- and 20th- Chinese history, sociology, Christianity, and Buddhism. When not reading, Howard plays music (guitar and bass) and is a proud and unabashed metalhead.
Born and raised in Japan, Denise has been in Chicago for about thirteen years after living on both coasts and the Lake District in the UK. She loves cooking, reading, and reading about cooking and eating food in other countries, as well as Chicago. Much of the time she feels more Japanese than she does American and still encounters things about this country that surprise her. Nevertheless, onward and upward!
Dustin comes to Open Books as a graduate of Columbia College, where he majored in Marketing Communications and minored in Product Design. Dustin spent much of his time growing up volunteering with numerous organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, PADS, and Students of Service. He is an outdoor enthusiast as well as an avid cyclist who enjoys spending his time camping and kayaking.
Ava hails from the East Coast but has gotten quite comfortable claiming to be a Midwesterner in the past few years. She received her B.A. in French and Comparative Literature with a focus on Trauma Studies from Oberlin College (the first of two Oberlin grads at Open Books!). Ava is a first-generation Romanian who spent most of her childhood traveling the globe, collecting embarrassing stories at each stop. Seriously, just ask. When she is not organizing the wonderful volunteer corps that makes Open Books possible, she is likely reading, cooking, or hanging out with her new best friend, Loomis the dog.
Erica is delighted to add Open Books to the eclectic list of positions where she has garnered work (and life!) experience. Equipped with a degree in Spanish Literature and Language from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she's been a bilingual 2nd grade classroom teacher, an elementary and middle school Spanish instructor, and is now proud to call Open Books home. She has a passion for crafty projects, loves a good pun, prefers public transportation to finding parking, and wonders why "quite a few" and "quite a lot" mean the same thing.
David finished college in a year that begins with a two. He spent most of the previous decade as a health insurance actuary in Lake Forest, and the rest of the decade not being an actuary.
When not at the store, he can be found avoiding sunlight and ingesting various cold forms of caffeine. At the risk of sounding like the most generic person on the planet -- he's only ninth, since he's under 60 and knows how to play bridge -- he enjoys books, movies, music, word puzzles, games of all sorts, and the occasional animated or odd TV show. His favorite film is Miller’s Crossing, his favorite flavor of Slurpee is banana, and he has the high score on the Ms. Pac-Man machine closest to his apartment. David startles easily if approached in the wild, but if you remain motionless, you might induce him to eat a cheeseburger right out of your hand.
Kayla recently moved to Chicago from the land of bat bridges and breakfast tacos: Austin, Texas. After spending four years at the University of Texas studying the fine arts, literary arts, media arts and performing arts, Kayla moved to the city to create some art of her own. Among other things, Kayla is a writer, an improviser, a wannabe vegan, a compulsive book buyer, a fan of all things 1970s, a passionate grocery shopper, a museum lover, an avid podcast listener, a driver of a purple Kermit car, and a proud left-hander. Kayla likes to meet people and make things.
Nell grew up in New York City and recently graduated from Yale University with a degree in American Studies. She is passionate about creative education and the Chicago literacy movement and has taught kids about books, improv comedy, and the visual arts. She has lived in a hilltop apartment in Tuscany, a bright orange basement and (for one beautiful night) a Hindu monastery in West Virginia. Nell loves jokes and Faulkner.
Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Jessica moved to Chicago to pursue her dreams of making art with great people in freezing weather. Joining the Open Books family as a ReadThenWrite Teaching Artist has definitely helped to make those dreams come true. Jessica holds a degree in Theatre from Bowling Green State University and spent the last several years teaching improvisation and sketch comedy writing to people of all ages. When Jessica is not at Open Books, you can find her drinking tea, catching up on TV series that she should have watched 15 years ago (why aren't people still talking about Ally McBeal?!), playing cards, and bopping around the city searching for a great cafe to read in.
Jacqui is thrilled to join Open Books as one of their bookstore interns. She recently graduated from Illinois State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English. During her time at school, Jacqui had the pleasure of getting a short story she wrote published in The Ranfurly Review, an online journal based in Scotland. She isn’t sure yet what she wants to do now that she’s no longer in school, but she has high hopes about her future. Along with her love of reading, Jacqui loves watching movies and can usually tell you all about the actors in them.
Beth is currently a senior at Northwestern University studying Creative Writing and Psychology. If she’s not busy reading (her favorites always tend to be children’s books, despite her supposedly being an adult now), you can find her crafting, singing, or attempting handstands in her tiny apartment. Born and raised in Chicago, she is so excited to share her passion for books with her hometown’s youth!
Jillian is extremely excited to join the Open Books team as a literacy intern. Also exciting, this is her last semester in undergrad, graduating this May with a B.A. in Communication and a Minor in Vocal Performance. After graduating, Jillie plans to travel to Israel for a couple weeks and then begin her job hunt and (possibly) grad school applications to social work programs in Chicago. When she’s not at school or Open Books, she can be found in the crisis call center at the National Runaway Safeline, in a rehearsal, frolicking around Andersonville, or at home crocheting, reading, writing poetry, or watching Netflix with her sassy best friend, her cat Pierre.
After nearly a decade of higher education, three undergraduate degrees, and some traveling the world to "find" herself, Ashley is months away from earning her Masters degree in Child Development. She still isn't certain what she should do for the rest of her life, but as long as books are involved she'll be happy. Ashley has enjoyed working with kids since she was a kid herself. She is excited that Open Books enables her to bring together her two favorite things: kids and books. When she isn't reading a book (or rereading The Giver by Lois Lowry), she can be found running along the Lake Shore Trail, taking a barre class, or volunteering with Make-A-Wish and Comer Children's Hospital.
Semecia is thrilled to join the Open Books team. She was born and raised in Chicago and still has not adjusted to its brutal winter. Semecia is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she received her B.S. in Agriculture and Environmental Education. After working in retail for too long she found a gem by the name of Open Books and things began to fall in place. In a few months, Semecia will join Teach for America corps in South Louisiana where she will share her love for mathematics and chess. In her free time, you can find Semecia reading through world news, playing chess and "thinkin’ of a master plan."
Born in Texas and raised in northwest Florida, Charlotte graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in English. While her heart dwells a little in the South, she constantly suffers from (and therefore indulges) her wanderlust, which happily led her here to Chicago. Charlotte loves all things comedy, horror flicks, and planning adventures that are manageably terrifying. Theoretically, she’s going to learn to cook this year.
How did we get here? It all started in 2006, in a Chicago basement. Catch up on the story so far.
On May 1, 2006, Stacy Ratner founded Open Books Ltd. on a simple and entrepreneurial vision: a funky, fun, colorful and eccentric used bookstore whose proceeds would help support a spectrum of unique literacy programs. By September of that year, Open Books had acquired the first 10,000 of those books (and the first of many storage units) and was hard at work developing the creative, collaborative, and colloquial heart of the organization. Word of the new venture and its willingness to pick up used book donations quickly spread throughout Chicago, fueled by a January 2007 article in Daily Candy which brought in a flood of books, a rush of volunteers, and an outpouring of general support. That June, the IRS certified Open Books as an official 501(c)(3) charity, and the quest to grow impact for literacy began.
Programming took off in earnest in 2007 from the team's new little loft office in River North. Starting with one elementary school in Cabrini-Green, Open Books developed its Buddies and Adventures In Creative Writing field trip programs. By 2008 the book collection had moved to a warehouse, where 175,000 books were listed for sale online to generate revenue for Buddies, field trips, and the newly added VWrite and Wordshops programs. And in November 2009, the original Open Books vision came to fruition with the grand opening of the Open Books store (featuring 50,000 gorgeous used books for sale and hailed by the press as "the most beautiful bookstore in Chicago,") and three-classroom literacy center. By the end of that year more than 2,500 students had participated in Open Books programs, more than 3,000 volunteers were involved, and more than 300,000 books had been processed.
2010 and 2011 were years of expansion. Newly honored by the Social Enterprise Alliance as the winner of the prestigious Innovation award, Open Books pursued its mission by sharing the love of reading and writing with more 8,000 students through 22,000 hours of programming including a new workshop series for educators and an intensive reading, writing, and publishing experience for teens (ReadThenWrite, 2011).
By 2012, the numbers had risen to 15,390 hours of literacy programming for 4,325 students from 63 schools and organizations across Chicago.
As Open Books moves forward in 2013 with the expansion of its programs, book collection efforts, and bookstore, we're more excited than ever to share our passion and our mission. We hope you'll join us as a volunteer, partner, student, donor, and friend, and we are beyond grateful for the support that has made everything possible thus far.