Several copies of the children's book Zippy's Special Gift sit on a table.
By Therese Van Ryne | December 11, 2023

Why We Should Be Gifting More Books to Increase Access to Books Around the World

As UNESCO calls out, “Literacy empowers and liberates people.” And there are millions of people around the world whose lives could be vastly improved if they just had access to books. Let’s give them access. 

Reading can simultaneously ground us and propel us. The ideas, stories and information shared via the written word can ignite curiosity, fuel creativity, and kindle connections. Literacy also gifts us the ability to feel, heal and grow in a safe and very personal space. But millions of people around the world don’t know this because they have never had the opportunity to experience what you and I have. They never learned how to read. 

Reading is not inherent. 

That’s why I have been so personally invested in the success of Bernie’s Book Bank here in the Chicagoland area these last several years, as have Zebras all around the world. 

We know that having access to just one book can set a child (or adult) on the path toward greatness – toward effective communication, independent living, and decision confidence. One book – or even one line in one book – may be all it takes to inspire an idea that leads to the formulation of a world-changing solution. Then again, just one book – or one line – may be all that it takes to motivate the reader to comb the pages of another book. One book can help foster the literacy that’s required to read or write text messages or emails…read prescription bottles or assembly instructions…pass a driver’s test.   

One book can do a lot. 

Yet, millions of people around the world don’t have access to a single book – or consistent access to any other type of media, for that matter – and that must change. 

Fortunately, there’s an organic movement unfolding in Chicago right now that is giving everyone access to books – an initiative that will help improve the literacy and confidence of local children and subsequently enhance the creativity and resilience of global communities. I want you to hear how the work done by Bernie’s Book Bank both in Chicagoland and (soon) beyond is already helping to form the foundation of our future workforce by making it possible for children to learn how to think big, think critically, and think independently. 

That’s why I invited Kristen Daniels, the new Executive Director at Bernie’s Book Bank, onto the Your Edge podcast. Her small team at the book bank, along with a massive throng of volunteers, are determined to make reading a birthright for every child rather than a privilege for a select few. But they need your help. So, I hope you’ll take 15 minutes to hear what she and the Bernie’s Book Bank team are doing to help improve child literacy on a global scale and what role you can play.

Prefer to download and listen later? Click below.

How You Can Help Provide Equal Access to Books

You can also read the transcript of our conversation here.


Editor’s Note: Speaking of the Power of “One Book”…

Right now, there’s one book that’s helping Bernie’s Book Bank rebuild its stock after a recent storm damaged its facility and inventory, giving the nonprofit a financial boost that will help enable the continued distribution of thousands of books to children each year. It’s called Zippy’s Special Gift and, yes, it’s the book Therese authored a few years ago. 

All proceeds from the sale of Zippy’s Special Gift on Amazon are being donated to Bernie’s Book Bank so its team can buy more books for children both in the Chicagoland area (and hopefully, soon, around the world). If you’re looking for a gift that gives back, this is definitely one to consider.


Blog, Podcast, Corporate Social Responsibility, Inside Zebra Nation,
Therese Van Ryne
Therese Van Ryne

Therese Van Ryne is Senior Director of External Communications for Zebra Technologies. She joined Zebra as part of the acquisition of Motorola Solutions Enterprise business in October 2014. She and her team are laser focused on growing the company’s brand awareness globally aligned with business objectives. Her accomplishments include leading Zebra events with Harvard University and TED as well as the creation of the annual Intelligent Enterprise Index, resulting in positive media coverage, customer engagement and revenue growth.

Prior to Motorola Solutions, Van Ryne worked at SC Johnson where she led corporate communication strategies and drove PR and branding efforts for leading consumer products. One of her top achievements was leading the Windex® placement in the film, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” resulting in a 25% sales increase for the brand.

One of PR News’ 2019 Top Women in PR and Crain's Chicago's 2021 Most Notable Executives in Marketing, Therese also has experience as a journalist, editor and producer, reporting nightly from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Van Ryne holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism from Marquette University and an Executive Leadership Master’s Certificate from Cornell University.

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