Passing on the Love of Reading


Anderson’s Bookshops offers their constant help to the surrounding community. Each year, the bookstores work with various different charities to make sure that every adult and child is given the opportunity to pick up a book and read. 

In December 2012, Kerry Wood, a former pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, came to Anderson’s Bookshop of Naperville to share his new book, All You Can Be, to young readers. Kerry works with an organization that helps children in intercity Chicago. Recently, Kerry adopted a school in Chicago where each of the 400 students was given a new toy and coat. To do their part, Anderson’s Bookshops provided each of the students with a new book too. 

Here is a list of some of the other charities and projects they are involved in:

Books for Troops: Since June 2011, Anderson’s Bookshops packages up books to send to troops overseas. Between customers’ book donations and collection jars, the staff of Anderson’s Bookshops sends boxes filled with a “thank you” card from customers, bookmarks made by local students, and about 15 paperback books to men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Book Angel: During each holiday season, Anderson’s Bookshops gives away close to 3,000 books. They collect names from humanitarian services all over community to reach out to children that don’t have the opportunity to get new books. The books are wrapped up and sent to the kids just in time for the holidays. 

Andrea’s Angels: Throughout the year, people are asked to donate gently used books to this program in honor of Andrea Racibozynski, a student who dedicated countless hours to a children’s literacy program, Naperville REACH. Over the course of 8 years, Anderson’s Bookshops and Bookfair Company has collected around 600,000 books that are redistributed to homeless shelters, schools without libraries or to kids that don’t have access to reading at home. 

You can also check out their reading groups: 

Two traditional book groups, Pageturners and Cover to Cover, focus on nonfiction and fiction books respectively, while the “Not for Kids Only” book group gives adults the chance to talk about books aimed for teens and children. Their Mother-Daughter book group offers a perfect opportunity for mother-daughter bonding (for girls 9-12 years old) over book discussions and snacks. “The group has been meeting for a long time so we have seen a lot of siblings when girls grow out of the book group.” The involvement of the bookstores in children’s lives promotes an appreciation for literary work from a young age.


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Andersons Bookshops

How a Bookstore Can Change Its Community

Since 1875, the Anderson family has provided books to the community of Naperville, IL. The Anderson family’s venture into bookselling began when Becky Anderson’s great-great grandfather opened W.W. Wickel Pharmacy with a small section devoted to literature. Almost 140 years later, Becky is the owner of Anderson’s Bookshops and Bookfair Company

“We sold books from the very beginning because back then there was no such thing as Chicago suburbia. We sold books for the small school houses in the area,” Becky stated. 

It wasn’t until 1964 that Becky’s grandfather opened up the family’s first official bookstore. Paperback Paradise was located above the family pharmacy in Naperville. “We have grown with the community,” Becky said. “Now Naperville is the fourth largest city in Illinois.” As the population increased, the Anderson family opened up new businesses in order to meet the needs of their community. In 1980, a bookstore in Downers Grove was opened. Anderson’s Bookfair Company, a children’s books wholesale business, was established in 1982, and Two Doors East, a gift store, in 2011. 

Amidst every new addition, the Anderson’s Bookshops continue to build off of the success achieved the previous year. They have received countless awards and recognitions throughout the past decade from Publisher’s Weekly Bookstore of the Year in 2011 to the Lucille Pannell Award for Best Children’s Bookseller in 2002. 

Anderson’s Bookshops’ talent of navigating the changes in the literary world makes Becky an ideal President of the American Booksellers Association. After a Barnes and Noble opened near the store fourteen years ago, Anderson’s Bookshops made sure they didn’t go down like many independent bookstores did at the time. They changed the status quo. Instead of a drop in sales, Anderson’s Bookshops increased the number of purchases dramatically through local author and illustrator events and numerous discount events with free Anderson’s Bookshops t-shirts.  

Maybe what keeps multiple generations of families coming back to pick up new books is one of the Anderson’s family secrets. From the age of ten, Becky learned from her grandfather as she helped out at the family pharmacy and bookstore. “We, as owners, treat our employees as family. I think as an owner or a family member there is no job that is too small for us to be involved in. We are involved in all levels of our business. That is part of the tradition; Just being present in the community and our business so our customers and employees see we are there on the front lines with them,” Becky explained. 

Whether Becky is helping other owners of independent bookstores through her work at ABA or choosing authors to come to the store, educating community members of all ages is pivotal to the daily workings of Anderson’s Bookshops. Many events are made possible through the partnership of Anderson’s Bookshops with their local college, North Central College. “Our educational community depends on us, ” Becky said. “We have such a great relationship with our schools. Not just the schools that surround us but throughout the Chicago area. We place hundreds of authors in schools for free every year since the publishers send us so many incredible children’s authors.” 

Due to the thriving schools, Anderson’s Bookshop of Naperville caters to a big family presence. The Naperville store hosts many young adult authors, a Young Adult Literature Conference in the fall, a Children’s Literature Breakfast in the spring, and a Teacher Open House to educate teachers and parents about what’s new in children literature. 

Becky makes sure that Anderson’s Bookshops doesn’t stop at informing only adults about the literature out there for younger audiences. With the store’s Mock Newbery and Sibert award programs, Becky and her employees give kids the tools to critically think about literature. Anderson’s Bookshops announce their winners before the official announcement at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in late January. 

First, Becky and the Children’s Coordinators at the Naperville and Downers Grove locations, Jan Dundon and Kathleen March, duke it out for their favorites as they compile the list of 25 books for the Mock Newbery. “We are choosing books that not only the ALA would vote upon but books that we think kids would enjoy. Books that are well-written and well-put together,” she explained. Becky’s favorite R.J. Palacio’s Wonder centers on a fifth grader with a facial deformity who has just enrolled in a mainstream school for the first time. The publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers, announced that the Anderson’s Bookshops have sold more of that book than any other bookseller in the country. “We are very happy about that,” Becky enthused. “We have been behind the book even before it was for sale. It has such a wonderful message.”  

At participating schools, every child has to read four books on the list to vote for the mock award. Currently, there are about 1,500 children that vote. “We try to show the kids how to look at a book for the literary qualities, the things that the Newbery Committee would be looking for in a book that could win.” 

From reading to writing, Anderson’s Bookshops gives their community members the chance to take center stage as they hone their literary chops.  Last year marked Pitchapalooza’s inaugural year headed by the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. 

300 people showed up for the event, and of those, 20 were given four minutes to pitch their book idea to a literary panel. In addition to Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry, the panel was comprised of Dominique Raccah, owner and CEO of Sourcebooks, Inc., a representative from Loyola University Press, and another from Albert Whitman, a children’s book publisher. Out of the 20 individuals that got to pitch their book to the panel, one winner was chosen to have a book published. As an extra perk this year, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry will hold a workshop on January 20th before the Pitchapalooza. “It was a great event. It built a lot of community,” stated Becky. 

As Naperville and the literary climate have changed through the years, the Anderson family has been there to experience it firsthand. The Anderson’s ability to provide books to the community members in Naperville and later Downers Grove has been a stable part of each city’s history. “Our joy is finding those little tucked away gems and a lot of those come from independent publishers. Those are the books that we want to get behind. Those are the books that set us apart. I think independent publishers are the strength of publishing,” Becky concluded. 

To stay updated on the upcoming author events and news about Anderson’s Bookshops, check out their website:

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Nicolette Amstutz is a writer for Independent Publisher. She is currently studying English and Communications at the University of Michigan. Please contact her with any comments, questions, or criticisms at namstutz (at)