CI Hero: Local woman promotes love of literacy, plans to stock 350+ classrooms with books

CI Heroes

PEORIA, Ill.– “There’s no time you stop reading in your life.”

A Central Illinois woman uses her love of literacy to improve the lives of others. Not only does she own her book business, she has started a foundation to help put books in the hands of all children.

Stacy Hardin is this week’s CI Hero.

“There’s no time you stop reading in your life,” said Lisa Auen, a teaching assistant at Holy Family Catholic Parish.

Each page of a book depicts a new chapter to the story and for Stacy Hardin, her story involves philanthropy and a love of literacy.

“I’ve always been very community oriented,” said Stacy Hardin, Owner of Book Rack Used Books & Gifts. “For me, it’s not just a book store. It’s an experience. The average reading level of a high school graduate is 8th grade with a comprehension level of 5th grade. That is atrocious to me. I think we can do much better.”

While she isn’t roaming between shelves in her store, The Book Rack located in Peoria, she’s working with her new foundation: Book Rack Literacy Foundation, Inc.

Welcome to Peoria’s 1st Annual Bookfest – a celebration of all things bookish! We will have over 10,000 sq ft of bookish delights ranging from local authors, literary crafters, artists, food trucks & KIDS area with face painters, balloon artists, storytellers, storybook characters and activities!

“Our goal is to increase literacy rates. Right now, just even across the country, not just here in Peoria, the average reading level of a high school graduate is 8th grade with a comprehension level of 5th grade. That is atrocious to me. I think we can do much better. I think Peoria can do much better than that and I want to do what I can to help with that.”

Stacy Hardin

On March 6, 2019, the non-profit began it’s mission to leave a legacy of literacy in our community.

“Oh, I love Stacy,” said Auen. “She’s been so gracious about helping us with donations and different things and she inspired us to do bedtime stories…she’s great for this community.”

The foundation not only supplements fourteen little free libraries around Peoria, it now works to contribute book to over 350 classroom inside the Peoria Public School District. “The research is very very clear. If you’re reading by a third grade level you have a like a 96% chance of graduating from high school.”

“I just like that initiative that she has sort of created and designed, which is really to fill every classroom with at least 60 books,” said Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent of Peoria Public Schools.

Because of Stacy’s initiative, Lisa Auen is just one of many local educators who see the increase in literacy first hand.

“The schools need the support from the community,” said Auen. “I think everybody knows there’s not enough help. If there’s people in the community that can come in and help us and get [kids] excited, then that’s what we need to do.”

The Book Rack sees thousands of used books that each has a story of its own and now those books have a second shot at life in the hands of a child.

Along with her business and foundation, Stacy also hosts Bedtime Stories, which is all about exposing children to the magic of reading.

If you’d like to help Stacy and her foundation put new and gently used books in local schools, CLICK HERE.

Please nominate someone you know to be our next CI Hero, by CLICKING HERE.

More about Book Rack Peoria

We offer community services and give away many books to community nursing homes, food pantries, and schools.  We stock existing Little Free Libraries as well as our very own Little Free Library at the Peoria Carver Center. We are a drop off point for Operation Bundle Up – a local group that gives gently used and new winter coats and gear to local students.  We at Book Rack Used Books strive to be more than just a local bookstore. We want to be a vital, contributing part of the community. We want to make a difference — and together, we can do that! 

More about Holy Family Parish School

Under the guidance of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we are a Holy Family that stresses academic excellence with unique opportunities to develop body, mind, and spirit.

More about Peoria Public Schools

Ensure that each student reaches his or her full academic and personal potential and is a well-balanced citizen. We take pride in educating and graduating each student prepared and inspired to contribute to the world.

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