ELMHURST – Carolyn Carrillo, an Elmhurst-native, remembers the exact minute her son Joseph became a reader.
He was reading "Here Comes the Strikeout!" by Leonard P. Kessler, following the struggles of a boy who perpetually struck out in baseball until finally at the end of the book, after much practice and hard work, the boy hits the ball.
"He was so proud and he was proud with the boy in the book," Carrillo said.
Carrillo said one day she plans to frame that book and hang it in her new store, A Book Above, because that is the reason she spent the past two 1/2 years working to open it.
Just a few doors down from Elijah's Specialty Coffee & Tea and nestled behind Luscombe Music, Inc. on Vallette Street, the children's bookstore welcomes young readers in with a winding path that leads them through bookshelves to a mural of the woods on the back wall or into an inviting reading room.
"It just seems like it's something that's gotten overlooked," Carrillo said about the need for a children's bookstore in the area.
While her daughter, Amanda, 11, naturally grew into a reader, her 10-year-old son took more effort to develop his love for reading. With her store, Carrillo hopes to help engage all children, but especially boys with books.
"I feel like I'm helping children step into whatever their love is," Carrillo said.
Growing up, Carrillo remembers getting the evening edition every night for her father, a painter. The value of reading was instilled in her from a young age as she watched her father educate himself about various topics through research reading.
A single mother, homeschooling her children, Carrillo wanted to instill that same passion for not just reading, but books in her own children. She thinks physically turning pages is important for children to connect with what they're reading.
"I think there's a large percent of children that are not connecting with reading on a deep level," Carrillo said.
If that means coloring themselves into a picture or bending the corners of their favorite pages, that's a good thing in Carrillo's eyes.
"Have conversations with your books," Carrillo said. "Be involved in reading."
She also wants to connect with the community through events like Hockey-Town Day, which she held last month. She highlighted sport-themed books and brought hockey players from the Chicago Steel and Anthony Trzupek, maker of Nickel Hockey, to the store.
"If you can connect with what [kids] love already, it's really easy to get them to take that focus and get it pulled toward reading," Carrillo said.
She also created a sister charity called Readers Ignite to extend her mission to connect children with reading beyond the walls of her new store.
"Connecting kids with reading is great, but a lot of the kids that need to get connected, their parents can't ever afford to walk into any book store," Carrillo said.
The store carries teen books and some adult books as well, but Carrillo really wants to focus on children. She's found plenty of adult literacy programs, but she hasn't found them for children. While she commends schools for teaching children the mechanics of reading, she wants to take those skills further and inspire a passion for reading in children.
"I really want to cater to children's needs," Carrillo said.
Carrillo's mission is to engaging the community inside and outside her store. In addition to other events she's planning, she's given children the opportunity to leave their mark on the store.
The branches of the trees covering the back wall are bare. Carrillo imagines them covered each season with leaves or snowballs with children's intitials on them. She plans to create a living mural in the heart of the store.
"I want to use that as a tool, a way for kids to be a part of the store," Carrillo said.
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If you go
What: A Book Above
Where: 136 W. Vallette St., Unit 6
When: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More info: 630-993-0133, www.abookabove.com