Project LIT Summit: Student Welcome

Below is the student welcome address from our inaugural Project LIT Summit. Rodrea, Jakaylia, and David are rising seniors at Maplewood HS and three of the founders of Project LIT Community.

3 students

1: A lot of people ask us: How did Project LIT Community begin?

2: We had just started our sophomore year, and we were in Mr. Amato’s English class reading an article about book deserts.

There were a bunch of questions on the board for us to discuss:

  • Why are book deserts harmful?
  • Why do you think book deserts exist?
  • What can we do this year to solve this problem?

3: We realized that here in Nashville, and in communities across the country, books are hard to come by. In some neighborhoods, there are more liquor stores than libraries, more bullets than books.

1: And without books, how can we expect kids to love reading? How can we expect kids to become great readers and writers? How can we expect kids to reach their potential?

2: From that first class discussion, Project LIT (or “Libraries In The”) Community was born.

Over the past two years, we have turned a class project into a national movement, one step and one book at a time.

3: Our first step was to launch a book drive, so we wrote persuasive letters to local businesses and organizations, created a video to share on YouTube, and began a social media campaign.

1: As donations came in, we would spend our lunch period opening boxes, counting books, and taking pictures as a way of saying thanks.

It didn’t take long for books to feel like presents.

2: We quickly reached our goal of 5,000 books by Thanksgiving, hit 10,000 by Christmas, and stopped keeping track after we passed 15,000 in early 2017.

From there, we placed these books in our painted “LIT” libraries and set them up in a dozen community centers and YMCAs across Nashville, so that more children could fall in love with reading.

3: However, as we filled our LIT libraries with donated books, we noticed that most of the books kinda sucked. Old, boring, irrelevant.

What kid would be excited to read those?

1: So while we still want to eliminate book deserts, we’ve got to make sure that the books we’re bringing into our schools and communities are books that students actually want to read.

Books like Dear Martin and The Hate U Give. Allegedly and The Crossover.

2: We can see ourselves in the pages of these amazing books.

Our Project LIT books show us that our voices, our stories, and our lives matter.

3: Our Project LIT books examine real issues that we all need to be talking about.

Our Project LIT books remind us that reading can be fun, that it can be more entertaining and enjoyable than a video game or Instagram post.

1: Our Project LIT books encourage us to write stories of our own.

Our Project LIT books inspire us to make a difference.

2: We’ve hosted more than 12 Project LIT Book Clubs over the past two years, and they’re always the best part of the day.

It’s not just the books that we love. It’s the camaraderie. It’s the family atmosphere.

3: Of course, we have grown tremendously as readers. But, I think we have grown even more as leaders.

Our class runs the entire book club. We facilitate the discussions and host trivia. We run the registration table and take pictures. We write poetry and create artwork. We record videos and designed the Project LIT merchandise that you see here today.

1: More than that, we try to be reading role models for our community. We try to set an example for the younger generation, our younger brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews.

2: Has it been easy? In some ways, yes. We try to keep it simple and do a little bit more each day. Hard work and dedication go a long way.

At the same time, we’ve definitely faced obstacles. But our advice would just be to keep going, keep pushing, keep following your heart.

3: As today shows, there are a lot of people out there who, like us, want to make the world a better place.

And that’s why we’re so excited about the first of many Project LIT Summits!

group pic 1

1: Today is a chance for all of us to get to know each other. To learn. To celebrate. To collaborate. To have fun. To change the world.

2: We know that today is just the beginning, and we hope that you leave here with plenty of ideas and inspiration!

3: Over the next hour, we want you to experience one of our book clubs. It will include an icebreaker, group discussion, and of course, some trivia!

We hope you enjoy!

Author: Jarred Amato

High school English teacher who is passionate about improving TN education, one book at a time.

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