Omaha World-Herald Article: An Experiment in Doing Good

500 books will be given to Bellevue students as part of Omaha company’s ‘experiment in doing good’

An Experiment in Doing Good

Article written by Micah Mertes / Omaha World-Herald staff writer

April 28, 2018

It started with a single book for a single child. Then the books and the children multiplied.

More than a decade back, Omahans Phil and Stacey Haussler were expecting their first child (they now have three), and they wanted to give him something special, something one-of-a-kind.

Phil, a writer, ended up making him a personalized storybook.

The Hausslers — along with two other dads: Ken Wiebke of Overland Park, Kansas, and Brad Sneed, of Prairie Village, Kansas — parlayed this idea into a business. In 2009, they created MarbleSpark, which makes and sells personalized children’s books. In MarbleSpark books, kids become the stars of their own stories.

“We’re all about creating those magical moments with kids and parents,” Stacey said. “When a child reads a story that’s about them, they realize that there’s some magic there.”

At the same time, the company wanted to find a way to give back to the community, to take part in what Phil called “an experiment in doing good.”

They launched a side endeavor called Project OpenBook.

“Our goal was to get books into the hands of kids that need them the most,” Stacey said, “that don’t have access to them at home.”

Stacey, citing a U.S. Department of Education statistic, said that 60 percent of children in poverty don’t have a single age-appropriate book in their homes. Project OpenBook aims to lower that number.

“We wanted to give a book away to kids,” Stacey said. But they wanted to make it just the right book — an “awesome” book.

They decided to make it from scratch. They solicited the help of writers and illustrators from across the country to contribute to what became “The Yeti in My Freezer,” a Shel Silverstein-esque children’s poetry book.

At the end of 2017, Project OpenBook printed and delivered 1,000 copies of the book to students through DIBS for Kids (DIBS stands for “Delivering Infinite Book Shelves”), a local nonprofit that aims to ensure that every student has a great book to read.

Now, a few months later, Project OpenBook is about to make its second book drop. On Monday, the organization will deliver 500 copies of “The Yeti in My Freezer” to students at two schools in Bellevue.

One of the reasons the group decided to do a kids’ poetry book, Stacey said, is that while reading is foundational in a child’s development, “it also needs to be fun. Kids need to be excited and enjoy what they’re reading. So we put together a compilation of funny kids’ poems.”

Currently, MarbleSpark is paying for the printing and shipping costs of Project OpenBook. But Stacey said that if they can get the permission from the contributors to sell “The Yeti in My Freezer,” the proceeds would go toward more book drops — more books for more kids from the company that started with a single child and a single book.

See full online article here.

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