We recently crossed paths and were inspired by a woman who shares the same goals that we do and is finding new and innovative ways to connect kids with books. Carolyn Carillo has a physical bookstore called A Book Above AND a non-profit called Readers Ignite. She shares what makes her store unique and what she has found works to foster a love of reading in children.

In a day and age where brick and mortar bookstores are becoming a thing of the past, Carolyn actually has a freedom to redefine and reintroduce the concept of a bookstore to the next generation.

A Book Above is a fun and inviting space in Elmhurst. They have all 5 star reviews on Facebook //www.facebook.com/ABookAboveBookstore/ where you can see the response from locals as well as people from out of town. Responses like this one speak to Carolyn’s care with her store.

Such an amazing bookstore! The owner works tirelessly to help connect kids and readers of all ages to love reading and bring out their passions through books”

Carolyn has discovered that kids are drawn to books that are related to their passions. So, A Book Above specialize in topics like sports, air & water, dance, drama, rescue workers, trains, “strong girl” titles, kids of courage, and local authors.

They have also hosted over 20 events that link passions to reading. These monthly events highlight a specific sport or interest — basketball, animals, trains — and highlight that topic all day. Usually about 100 books, and professionals and related personnel make the day fun for kids who have the chance to learn and see great books about their own passion. The response is always positive, and even adults are surprised to see how many books there are, on for instance, hockey.

On the heels of this success, Carolyn is branching into an area that she is very excited about. The bookstore is beginning to host language workshops (including Polish). She is also hosting more music events and trying for some STEM events, too. “I envision the shop being really a learning center. Cultivating a love of reading is very related to a love of all of the arts and the root of all learning.”

Readers Ignite is an extension of Carolyn’s vision to get books into the hands of more kids.

The official mission of Readers Ignite is to work WITHIN communities to connect area at-risk youth to reading resources.

Many nearby communities need literacy resources—whether it is programs, books, or volunteers—to help create the needed shift for these kids.

Once we start in one area, we try to work with other groups in that same area. This way, the whole community begins to get stronger and more aware of what needs to be done to focus earlier on literacy for the youth. -Carolyn Carillo

Carolyn could not be more pleased that Readers Ignite continues to grow and gain exposure. You could be part of this growth and mission by volunteering to help. In the works now is a larger fundraiser called “Wee Wheels, Big Deals – Breaking the Cycle of Illiteracy.”  Contact Carolyn for more information carolyn.abookabove@yahoo.com.

The next blog on contains more advice from Carolyn about how to choose books for children!