Volunteering at Open Books

By Shanti Nagarkatti | Community Contributor

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are tremendous. The right match can help you find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even improve your mental and physical health.

Open Books, a Chicago literacy nonprofit, operates a spacious, bright, and colorfully decorated bookstore in the Loop, featuring more than 50,000 books, nearly all of which are used and all of them donated.  All book sales help support Open Books’ instructional programs, which reach more than 5,000 students each year.

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Student wearing the Open Books pencil costume. Photo: Olga Ivanidi

Volunteers support everything at Open Books, and the organization in turn rewards its volunteers with enrichment opportunities and appreciation events. The level of enthusiasm is palpable, and anyone with a passion for reading who wishes to share their love of books will immediately feel at home. Since starting as a volunteer with Open Books over two years ago I have helped organize events to raise awareness and support the expansion of literacy programming in Chicago.

However, my most rewarding and fun connection with Open Books comes during the school year, with my participation in Creative Writing Workshops. These writing field trips, hosted at Open Books headquarters are from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., are a chance for 3rd-12th grade students to develop their writing skills in a meaningful way. Each volunteer works within a small group of children to discuss texts and write their own prose and poetry. At the end of the session, the students have an opportunity to perform what they have written in front of the classroom – all while wearing a pretty awesome pencil costume.

To learn more and get involved: Open Books, 651 W. Lake Street, (312) 475-1355, www.open-books.org.

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