Hoppin’ off the bus for a unique field trip that believe it or not puts these fourth graders back in a classroom and they like it.

They read and write together, and get to wear the pencil costume when they volunteer to read out loud.

“It makes me feel proud,” said Taraz Tofighi.

The class is conducted by Open Books — a literacy program in Chicago that provides tutoring and online-mentoring for students.

Nationwide studies show that only 33 percent of 4th graders are proficient or better at reading.

22 percent of adults can barely read at all.

Numbers like these motivated Stacy Ratner — a former dot-com businesswoman — to found Open Books four years ago. With a dedicated army of 3,000 volunteers, the program has helped more than 2,300 students.

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“If you can’t read te bus schedule, how are you going to get to work? If your kids don’t know how to read, how are they going to grow up to have the kind of lives that they want to have?”

A fully stocked store of donated books serves as the heart of the operation.

The store holds about 50,000 second-hand books, from children’s titles to rare books. Sales bring in half the money needed to support the literacy programs.

Open Books also sends volunteers to about a dozen schools for weekly tutoring sessions. Students in the program at Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School have boosted their average reading scores from 20 to 62 words a minute. Joan Riley works with 12 yr old Xavier Maclin.

“I think he’s much better at sounding out words.”

Promoting literacy by nurturing young readers..one book at a time.