Ready Readers Celebrates 1 Million Books with Storybook Walks in the St. Louis Area | Course

BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS — The 3- and 4-year-olds laughed and cried as they listened to a book, in the park, on their very first field trip.

What they didn’t know was that “Cannon’s Crash Course” was chosen to represent the 1 million books distributed over 25 years by Ready Readers as a nonprofit committed to early childhood literacy. After the Baden Christian Child Care Center class heard the story of a young boy and his bicycle, they walked along the Maline Greenway in Bella Fontaine County Park, where every page of the book is signposted.

The storybook walks featuring the book by local author Mon Trice and illustrated by local artist Cbabi Bayoc will be on display through May at two dozen locations in the city and county of St. Louis.

“I like field trips,” said Lisa Scheer, director of the daycare. “We’ve been locked up for so long, you want as many as possible.”

Julius B. Anthony read the book to preschoolers as part of Ready Readers’ commemoration of the 1 millionth book given to children in poor neighborhoods.

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“Normally, those parents don’t have extra income to support their homes with children’s books,” said Anthony, president and founder of St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature. “Having these storybook walks in their neighborhood gives them something to do as a family and as readers they are supported by seeing literacy in their environment.”

Before the pandemic, 400 volunteers visited children in schools and daycare centers every week to read and distribute books. Now Ready Readers only has 200 volunteers, while the number of school sites has grown to 250.

New volunteers are needed and receive training before reading in the classroom, said Angela Sears Spittal, executive director of the nonprofit.

Ready Readers celebrates its 25th anniversary with a free block party on June 4 at Bella Fontaine Park.

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