Open Books

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Join us on Sept. 4th for a reading with Peter Brown!

Join us at our River North Bookstore on Thursday September 4th at 6 p.m. for a special talk and signing with Peter C. Brown, co-author of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

Named one of the “Top Ten Books on Teaching" by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Make It Stick draws on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines to offer concrete techniques for becoming a more productive learner.


More on Make It Stick: ”Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive… More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another… Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.”

The book has been praised in publications such as Psychology Today and The Boston Globe, and co-author Henry L. Roediger recently described the lessons from the book in a New York Times Op-Ed.

Peter C. Brown, a novelist and writer based in St. Paul, MN,  will discuss Make It Stick's central arguments, as well as sign copies afterwards.

Hope to see you there!

Filed under Open Books make it stick

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Meet Educator Board Member and Partner Amy Besida!

Amy Besida wears a lot of hats at Open Books - as a valued member of our Literacy Consulting Board, she’s helped us think through our teen programs and teacher evaluations. Amy is one of our only board members who is also a program partner; Open Books has worked with hundreds of her students at the now-closed Chicago Talent Development charter high school through our ReadThenWrite program. Needless to say, we adore Amy, and can’t wait for you to get to know her, too!

1. How did you begin working with Open Books?
I was first introduced to Open Books through our partnership with Communities in Schools.  We wanted to bring in programs to our school that would originally address a small group of students that were not only struggling readers but also disengaged from school.

2. What has been your most rewarding experience with Open Books so far?
My most rewarding experience with Open Books was being able to be a full time teacher last year and have Open Books come into one of my classrooms.  I saw each week how excited the kids were to see their mentors, read, and work on their memoirs; it was incredibly rewarding and their new-found zest for reading and writing bled into our classes every other day of the week!

3. What do you love about being an educator?
I love that every day is different. Watching my students grow not only as learners, but also as young people, is incredibly rewarding.  I love that every day they make me laugh, they challenge me to be a better teacher, and we are able to build a real community in our classroom.

4. What was the first book that really had an impact on you, and why was it important?

The first book that had an incredible impact on me was The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I remember reading this book in high school when I was a quiet teenager full of angst and I finally found someone else I could relate to - even if they were only a character in fiction.  It changed the way I thought about myself and everyone else around me.  I still reread it once every year just to remind myself of everything I learned from it. 
5. How do you motivate your students to become better readers and writers?

I motivate my students by setting high expectations and not letting them give up.  I work hard every day to make sure they are working hard!  I cheer them on and I am honest with them at all times so we can address their challenges and celebrate their successes.
6. What’s something that a lot of people know about you but you wish more could know?

I think a lot of people know that I am a dedicated educator and I love the classroom.  I wish more people could step into my shoes on a daily basis and understand why it is so gratifying and fun to be a teacher in an urban school district. 

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Concert at Open Books River North on August 13th!

Join us at our River North Store on August 13th at 6 p.m. for a intimate acoustic concert from singer-songwriters Ashley Hamel and Grace Kendall! The performance is free and open to the public, and will combine the singers’ love of music with literary themes.
Ashley Hamel is a singer-songwriter, improv comedian, and wizard rocker. She incorporates her diverse stage experience into a live performance full of emotion and humor, expressed through a powerful voice and energetic stage presence.

Grace Kendall is an singer/songwriter and traveler who toured the country for several years singing songs about the Harry Potter books. Now she performs intimate, heartfelt songs on her ukulele, often bringing crowds together to snuggle on the floor and sing sweet harmonies.  Her favorite authors are Ray Bradbury, Lemony Snicket and Henry David Thoreau.

Hope to see you there!

Filed under Open Books Ashleyhamel Grace Kendall

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Our Publishing Academy authors recommend their favorite books


Drumroll, please…..

It’s time again for our annual book recommendation list, carefully curated by our Publishing Academy authors and their coaches.

Open Books Publishing Academy is a unique opportunity for teen writers to spend their summers with us on a magical quest: writing and publishing their very own novel! This July, we’ve been fortunate to foster the talents of nineteen scribes from all over Chicago, who are diligently working to publish graphic novels and fantasy fiction.

It turns out that the Publishing Academy authors are also the best, smartest, and most eclectic readers around. Without further ado, we present you with their favorite reads, many of which you can conveniently find at Open Books River North or at Open Books Pilsen.

  • Vincent recommends Kaffir Boy by Mark MathabaneA very inspiring story of a black boy growing up in South Africa during apartheid. It shows how the human spirit can prevail even in the worst conditions.
  • Amanda recommends The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.  This has to be my favorite series since Harry Potter!
  • Olivia recommends Magyk by Angie SageIt’s a very well-written story with a very unique look at magic.
  • Chloe recommends Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry PratchettFirst off, it’s by two brilliant writers and it’s a fun, interesting view of the end of the world. It also has hilarious and dynamic characters. 
  • Dominic recommends The Percy Jackson series by Rick RiordanIt is full of adventures, comedy, and action. The main character, Percy, needs to figure out how to overcome problems like fighting monsters. As long as you don’t watch the movies, the books will be fine.
  • Maryam recommends Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements.  It’s a good, quick read about a kid who turns invisible.
  • Lou recommends World War Z by Max BrooksI don’t even like zombies and this is my favorite book. It’s funny, intense, realistic and amazingly well-written. Read it!!!
  • John and Alexis recommend The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsIt’s a thrilling, action-packed joy ride of betrayal, violence, and complicated romance. It’s a tale of courage, strength, surviving, and triumph.
  • Lucy recommends The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. A heart-breaking tale of romance that will leave you wanting to read more until the end.
  • Hope recommends Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. A high-fantasy book that it great as its own novel, but also a really good start to a fantastic series. Its protagonist is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read — who can hold her own and carry the story. 
  • Perlita recommends Cirque Du Freak #1 by Darren ShanIt’s so exciting it makes you want to read all of the books. It’s filled with unexpected twists, action, and vampires…an amazing start to a series!
  • Jamie (coach) recommends We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. It’s hard to describe what the book is about without giving everything away, but you won’t regret this quick summer read. 
  • Noel (coach) recommends Wildwood by Colin MeloyThis is a fantastical tale of a young girl, her friend, and her brother, who stumble upon a magical world of talking animals, beginning-of-time mystics, and the age-old struggle of good vs. evil.
  • Kaira (coach) recommends American Splendor by Harvey Pekar. Reading Harvey Pekar always reminds us that everyone’s life can be a comic book, and that real life can be just as interesting as a super hero. 

Want more guidance? Read last year’s recommendations!

Filed under Open Books publishing Academy

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It’s the last day to sign up to get in on the Riot Read in time for August’s pick. The Riot Read brings you one book each month to your door, along with a pile of extra content special to that book. Check it out.


It’s the last day to sign up to get in on the Riot Read in time for August’s pick. The Riot Read brings you one book each month to your door, along with a pile of extra content special to that book. Check it out.