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Ready Readers celebrates 1 million books with storybook walks across St. Louis area

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

What they didn’t know was “Cannon’s Crash Course” was chosen to represent the 1 million books distributed by Ready Readers in its 25 years as a nonprofit devoted to early childhood literacy. After the class from Baden Christian Child Care Center listened to the story about a young boy and his bike, they walked along the Maline Greenway at Bella Fontaine County Park where each page of the book is displayed on guideposts.

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

“I love field trips,” said Lisa Scheer, director of the child care center. “We’ve been locked down for so long, you want to have as many as you can.”

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

“Typically those parents don’t have additional 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 is giving them something to do as a family and supports them as readers, seeing literacy in their environment.”

Before the pandemic, 400 volunteers visited children at schools and childcare centers weekly to read and distribute books. Now, Ready Readers is down to 200 volunteers while the number of school sites has grown to 250.

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

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

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