Bernie’s Book Bank is named for Dr. Bernard P. Floriani, the father of Founder and Executive Director, Brian Floriani, Bernie Floriani, Jr. and Lindsey Arterburn.
Bernie was a self-made man – the son of a coal miner who grew up in a house without running water until he went to college on a basketball scholarship. He may not have had much, but he did have access to books and the opportunity for a good education. Big Bernie achieved a bachelor’s, a master’s and a doctorate degree in reading education. He spent his entire professional life promoting literacy.
In 2005, Brian was a lead instructor for Golf Digest Schools in Lake Tahoe and West Palm Beach. The sudden death of his father, Bernie, inspired him to do something different with his life.
Brian began working as a reading paraprofessional for Shiloh Park Elementary in Zion, Illinois.
Brian spent every day tutoring struggling readers. It wasn’t long before Brian realized that, while he could help each child individually, his efforts and those of thousands of other reading paraprofessionals across America wouldn’t do anything to stop the flow of struggling readers from entering school every year.
Brian’s experience with these children consumed him! He then understood the importance of what his father knew — that reading is the single most important skill a child needs to learn in order to contribute and function competently within our society. Furthermore, he realized that all of these children probably could have been great readers if they had been provided access to books at home and entered kindergarten “reading ready.”
In December 2009, Bernie’s Book Bank was founded in Brian’s garage, and he began collecting and redistributing bags of children’s books to at-risk children. In its first 12 months, Bernie’s Book Bank collected, processed and redistributed 140,000 children’s books. In its second year, Bernie’s Book Bank expanded its operation and reach, and distributed 350,000 books to more than 35,000 children.
By the end of 2012, the number of children’s books Bernie’s Book Bank has collected, processed and redistributed reached 1 MILLION. In 2015, we will distribute 2 MILLION books annually to 100,000 at-risk in Chicagoland alone, and then expand to other cities.
As a non-profit organization funded entirely by generous individuals and caring companies, Bernie’s Book Bank cannot succeed without the support of many book donors, volunteers, and financial donors. Working together, we are transforming the educational journeys of thousands of at-risk children, and providing them the opportunities to succeed that all children should have.