Open Books | Open Minds

Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t have kids in 1st-5th grades. Can I still donate?

Yes, of course! Here are four options.

  • You can buy books through the program and give them away to a family that does have kids of that age. Or to a teacher or school – more schools need these sorts of books than you may think! And of course, we’ll still match your purchase by giving the same books to families in North Lawndale.
  • Donate to our Gift of Books program, where you can choose the kind and number of books you want to donate – and we’ll deliver them directly to kids in need through Chicago Public Schools.
  • Donate the books back to Open Books. We’ll grant them to students who lack access to diverse titles. Simply put Open Books in the shipping address and they’ll come to us.
  • Consider a financial donation to our general operations.                

How were the books chosen?

We chose books that reflect the experiences of Black and Latinx kids – books that serve as mirrors and windows for Chicagoland kids. Books like these are extremely important for all children’s social-emotional learning. And yet only about 10% of children’s books feature Black characters, and only 5% feature Latinx characters.

Mirrors: Black and Latinx kids can see themselves, their families and their communities reflected and valued in these books. When learning how to read, children use familiar language and experiences to recognize words and make sense of texts. Culturally relevant books allow students to connect with literature and use their background knowledge and experience to understand it. That’s especially important for beginning readers, struggling readers or students learning to read in a new language. Having opportunities to use their background knowledge to support reading comprehension can also provide a source of confidence and success for students.

Windows: To encourage the development of empathy, kindness and community awareness, these books show kids from the majority culture views of the world and experiences outside of their own. It is particularly important for these young readers to read books beyond their experiences, so they aren’t satisfied with stereotypical or universalized portraits of other groups. These kids need books that show their place in a multicultural society and expose them to points of view beyond their own.

We also selected books that encourage themes of empathy, kindness, and community – exploring social-emotional-learning standards while transforming libraries with diverse characters and authors.

Why 1st-5th grades? Don’t older school kids face the same needs?

Ever year, the range of reading-comprehension skill levels among any age group grows greater. In the early grades, when skill levels are at their most uniform, we can select books that will be appropriate for the majority of kids.

Why North Lawndale? Don’t kids in other neighborhoods need books like these?

They do, and we ultimately hope to expand the initiative to other communities. But Open Books has a long history working with community partners in North Lawndale; we chose to start here because we knew we could rely on these relationships to deliver books to local families who need them the most.