Maryville Distributes Free Books in North County

Maryville University distributed nearly 400 books to first through eighth-grade students at Barack Obama Elementary School with the Normandy Schools Collaborative as part of a multicultural book fair.

The book fair introduced students to books that promote positive images and stories about African American culture and history as a tool to help increase literacy. Each student selected one book for his or her home library.

“Many of our students cannot afford brand-new books, and many of them may not even have books at home,” said Gwendolyn Shipp, library media specialist for Barack Obama Elementary School. “This book fair was so important because it allowed our students to find characters in books who look like them. They realized they can have dreams beyond what they see everyday.”

The event was hosted by the Maryville Education Club in partnership with EyeSeeMe African American Children’s Bookstore and A Red Circle, an organization founded by Erica Williams, ’05, ’12, to address racial injustice and inequality in North St. Louis County.

The students could choose from a range of age-appropriate books from genres like science fiction, animals/nature, fairy tales and sports. The students also participated in a variety of literacy-themed activities like making bookmarks, writing poems and drawing a mural inspired by their favorite books.

“It was amazing to watch the children show off their reading skills,” said Millena Marler, who is studying education at Maryville. “We had a reading nook staffed by volunteers for story time, but the students didn’t want to be read to; they wanted to read to us. I loved seeing them dig right into their new books!”

Maryville put books into the hands of these students thanks to fundraising efforts by the Maryville Education Club. The book fair was also made possible through a generous grant from the Missouri Humanities Council.

Plans are underway for the next multicultural book fair, which will be held in September at Northview Elementary School, part of the Jennings School District. For more information and to support future books fairs, contact Maryville Education Club faculty adviser Destiny Reddick, EdD, assistant dean for the School of Education and assistant professor of teacher education, at

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