Launched in late September, the bookstore and warehouse, 905 W. 19th St., opened up a free kids bookstore allowing parents or guardians to load up for children. | Mauricio Pena/Block Club Chicago

A West Side mini-museum is being transformed into a neighborhood bookstore pop-up where residents can pay what they like.

The bookstore will be hosted at the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot, a 20-foot-long freight container retrofitted into a community mini-museum at Love Blooms Here Plaza at Central Park Avenue and Douglas Boulevard. It will be open 3-6 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays through the end of September.

The temporary bookstore is a pilot for a brick-and-mortar book shop planned to open next year in North Lawndale. That location will be the new hub for North Lawndale Reads, a campaign by Open Books to “increase the early childhood literacy rates in North Lawndale and increasing the love for reading for everyone,” director Chelsea Ridley said.

The Lawndale Pop-Up Spot typically hosts art installations and exhibits curated to reflect the lives of people living in the neighborhood. Past exhibitions include Lawndale: A Living History, which showcased local elders through a series of oral histories, and A Safe Place, an exhibit created with local youth about what makes people feel physically and emotionally safe.

Ridley, who co-founded the pop-up, said this month’s bookshop is dedicated to fostering a love for literature in the neighborhood.

“The goal is to make it really feel like it is a bookstore in a shipping container. It will have bookshelves. It will have seating,” Ridley said. “It’s not going to have any old, cheap books. This is going to have books that we pulled from our bookstores.”

Just like every other Open Books location, children’s books are free and visitors will be able to pick their own price for other genres. Open Books carefully vets its selection of donated books so each one is high-quality and “feels like a cherished item for the person who now owns it,” Ridley said.

The book store pop-up will have every genre of books, Ridley said. But the shop will also be curated specifically for the North Lawndale community, so organizers are ensuring the selection will have a wide range of books with Black authors and books that feature Black narratives with Black characters, Ridley said.

Those kinds of books can be more relatable for children in North Lawndale, Ridley said. Offering a large variety of books will make it easier for kids to find the type of literature they connect with and develop a love for reading, she said.

“We want to make sure that people see themselves in the books that they’re reading, and also create pathways for you to see that writing is for them and reading is for them,” Ridley said. “The more that you are able to find things that interest you, that spark your interest in reading, the more you’re able to start reading and continue your interest in reading.”

The Lawndale Pop-Up Spot also will bring Black-owned coffee roasters to Love Blooms Here Plaza to give residents a comfortable outdoor place to grab a book, get a drink and read. The plaza also includes a flower farm and cut flower shop, and neighborhood groups are developing a mini-café there.

Open Books is scouting locations for the permanent bookshop that will also be a hub for North Lawndale Reads.

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