Jacob Jordan ’20, ’21 MS was an avid reader as a child and grew up loving books. So when he took Education and the Inheritance of Social Inequality at Northwestern, Jordan was shocked to learn that two-thirds of low-income children in the U.S. don’t own any books. What’s more, children’s literature severely lacks diversity: “In 2018 77% of all children’s books featured either white people or animals,” Jordan says. That inspired Jordan to launch the Equal Opportunity Book Box (EOBB), a monthly subscription service that delivers picture books featuring characters of color, LGBTQIA characters, and/or characters with disabilities. The New York Times recommended EOBB in its 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids.
SHARING THE STORIES
Every month, subscribers receive a box of three picture books featuring characters from underrepresented communities. For every book sold, EOBB donates a book to a child in need through Bernie’s Book Bank, which provides books to underserved children in Chicago.
SUPPORT FROM THE START
Jordan, Stephanie Shin ’21 and senior Anthony Cruz launched EOBB with the help of Northwestern’s student entrepreneurship hub, The Garage. “The support that they’ve offered has been immeasurably important,” Jordan says. In 2021 EOBB won first place in the social impact and nonprofit industry track of The Garage’s VentureCat startup competition.
TELLING IT HOW IT IS
“One of my favorite pieces of feedback is from a mom in Utah,” Jordan says. “She was upset with the school district because they were trying to sugarcoat some topics in the curriculum. She really appreciated that our books were realistic and honest about the diversity that exists in the world but also the racism, sexism and homophobia that exist too.”
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
EOBB offers books for children ages 0–2 and 3–7 and is expanding to ages 8–12. “Down the road, we’re hoping to publish our own books written by people with nontraditional life experiences,” says Jordan, “such as incarcerated people and refugees and teenagers, to bring other perspectives into the picture-book space.”
Monsters and angels who showed up at our door in Germantown, Pa., on Oct. 31 would be given a choice:
They could choose one candy, three crayons or a book.
The process of deciding slowed down the chaos of the evening. Children were encouraged to choose between ephemeral joy (candy), creative tools (crayons) or treats for their minds (books).
The parents, shivering on the sidewalk, would often chant, "Take the book! Take the book!" But more frequently, the children would choose the book on their own.
The first year we lived there, we handed out six books. Four years later, the last year we lived there, we handed out 70 books.
—Rhu Melum McBee '81 via Northwestern Magazine