Darrin Utynek, CEO of Bernie’s Book Bank, left, and Joe Aurelio, CEO of Aurelio’s Pizza are promoting their program of getting books to children.

Aurelio’s Pizza is partnering with Bernie’s Book Bank in October to provide free, quality books to under-served Chicagoland children.

The Aurelio’s Pizza at 1600 N. Convent St. in Bourbonnais is included in the campaign that is part of both National Pizza Month and National Book Month this October. Michael and Amy Mills are the owners of the local Aurelio’s.

“For my wife and I, education is very, very important to us,” Michael Mills said. “With all our employees we stress education … Where we can provide, especially with lower income kids to read, we’re all for it. Kids aren’t reading enough today, and it’s upsetting.”

According to a Aurelio’s Pizza news release, 60 percent of kids in low-income homes don’t have any books of their own. Bernie’s donates books through local schools, providing 12 books per student per year for 12 years. It recently passed the 20 million mark for donations — all in the Chicago area.

How it works

Aurelio’s Pizza’s has offered a longtime rewards program of providing discount rebates to customers when they redeemed the Aurelio’s shield cut out from the top of their pizza boxes. The program still operates at all of its participating franchise restaurants.

During October, Aurelio’s customers can redeem the box top shields for children in need of books. Each shield equals $1, which equals one book. The box top shields will be collected at all Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana restaurants throughout the month.

“To me, pizza has always been about bringing people together, and when you share a pizza you’re usually sharing stories, too,” said Joe Aurelio, CEO of Aurelio’s Pizza. “But a lot of kids don’t have access to enough books and so are missing out on stories that can enrich their lives and imaginations. This is our way to help families in our communities nurture their children with resources like great books.”

Michael and Amy Mills have owned the Bourbonnais Aurelio’s Pizza for 29 years. It moved to its present location in 2006. Michael said the partnership with Bernie’s Book Bank is a great way to help the community.

“With social media and video games, the kids are getting away from reading and learning,” he said. “If I can keep them involved in learning, I’m all for it. … It makes them a productive citizen.”

Since 2009, Bernie’s Book Bank has provided nearly 20 million books to kids in-need. Each child receives 12 books per year for 12 years.

“Bernie’s Book Bank is grateful to Aurelio’s Pizza for their dedication to increasing book ownership among under-served children,” Darrin Utynek, CEO of Bernie’s Book Bank in the news release. “Their strong family-focused tradition, commitment to community, and innovation as a pizza pioneer makes this partnership with Aurelio’s very special.”

Aurelio’s opened its first restaurant on Ridge Road in Homewood in 1959 by Joseph A. Aurelio Jr. who decided to give it a go as a restaurateur at the age of 26.

The pizzeria franchise has grown to 38 locations across six states.

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Associate Editor

Chris Breach is the Associate Editor of The Daily Journal and the editor of the business section. A graduate of Indiana University, Breach has more than 25 years experience in newspapers. He can be reached at