Bernie’s Book Bank — which distributes free books to children throughout Chicago and Milwaukee — reached an astounding milestone this week: The Lake Bluff-based nonprofit has distributed more than 27 million books to more than 300,000 children.

Audra Meyer is one of the reasons why. This Barrington mom has reached something of a milestone herself. Over the last five years, she has collected 6,480 books, which she donated earlier this summer to Bernie’s Book Bank.

It was a grassroots effort. Meyer organized book drives, contacted Facebook groups, and worked with school districts in Schaumburg and Algonquin to collect new and gently used children’s books.

Audra Meyer with two of her partners, Rev. Philip Tutu, left, and Quinn Wulbecker, principal of Link School in Elk Grove.

“I’m just passionate that every child should have an opportunity to read at least one book,” Meyer says.

Although Meyer is a former teacher now staying home to raise her young children, her biggest motivation was meeting Rev. Philip Tutu of Ghana. He leads Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit in four African countries, including Ghana. Most recently, Meyer worked as international operations manager for the Leadership Summit, which is how she met Tutu.

He described to her how children in rural Ghana had no access to books. In fact, he said that an entire family had no access to even one book. That resonated with Meyer who began collecting books immediately, with the goal of shipping them to Africa. But reality sunk in when she realized how expensive it would be to ship them there.

(Photos courtesy of Bernie’s Book Bank)

“That’s when I pivoted,” Meyer says, looking for a local organization that would make books accessible to children.

Enter Bernie’s Book Bank. Since 2009, the agency has been collecting, processing, and distributing quality new and gently used books to the children of Chicagoland. Its guiding mission is to create pathways to success through book ownership. Consequently, the organization annually distributes eight books to children, ages birth through sixth grade, at Title 1 schools and early childhood programs.

“I loved their mission because they actually give books to children,” Meyer says. “And they give them to kids in Title 1 schools. I used to teach in a Title 1 school, so that was another connection. One book at a time helps develop these young minds and vision.”

Currently, Meyer has paused her book collecting. Her biggest problem, she says, is storage. After filling her garage with books, she now is hoping to partner with someone on her next drive. She knows she’s not done with her quest to make books accessible to children.

“I just want to extend a hand,” she says, “to help grow our next generation of influencers.”

Bernie’s Book Bank is always looking for volunteers. Book drives, they say, are a great way to bring the community together, declutter and give books a second life. They suggest contacting Carol Collier, as Meyer did, to learn how to organize a book drive.

Please follow and like us: