Project LIT Community Links

Wondering what Project LIT Community is all about? How it began and what our work is all about? I recently wrote this blog post for Hope Street Group.

I also had the honor of joining Corrina Allen on the Books Between Podcast. Thanks to everyone who has already given it a listen. Hope you enjoy!



Project LIT Summit: Next Steps & Improvements

Continuing with the reflections from Project LIT Summit, here are the steps that our chapter leaders plan to take this summer/next school year as well as some additional suggestions for future events. Thanks for reading!

Group 1

After the Project LIT Summit, I plan to…

  • organize local meet-ups in my community!
  • Start a chapter and continue to place diverse, relevant texts in the hands of my students.
  • Buy more books
  • Read the 2018-19 list this summer, create a Donors Choose account and an Amazon Wishlist, and start planning for our Club’s inaugural meeting in October.
  • Get our chapter started
  • Read all of the selections this summer!
  • READ! I am working to revise and market my funding as well as work with supporters on grant opportunities. I am also reaching out to teachers in the district to get them started on creating groups at the other schools.
  • Meet with my co leader and start drafting letters for parents, students and community stakeholders.
  • Begin implementing more book clubs, finding ways to obtain the books, and making my classroom more student led.Read all the books and host at least 4 book clubs this year!
  • start a ProjectLIT chapter in my new school
  • Tell my new principal about Project LIT, work on funding for books.
  • Bring this energy and the new ideas I gained back to my chapter to help us grow and be more successful this year!
  • Write a new grant specifically for middle school books to support schools in my area
  • Read ALL of the books in preparation for bringing them to my school and community.
  • Start getting our Donor’s Choose ready, plan like crazy, and connect with all my new leader friends on Twitter.
  • Work on establishing a leadership team who will brainstorm this summer.
  • Work even harder to connect with students and reach every child through a book.
  • Help foster student leaders.
  • focus on bringing diverse literary choice to my students and the surrounding community.
  • Keep on trucking!
  • Finish reading all 25 selections this summer! Bring takeaways back to my staff, spread the word about project lit so we can have more chapters in DC!
  • Keep working my way through this stack of amazing books.
  • read, share, and gather together students to begin our chapter.

One thing we could add to next year’s summit is…

  • Offer separate tracks for students and educators!
  • Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo
  • An opportunity for students to create something during the afternoon sessions and present (or perform) it at the closing session.
  • Buddy system sign ups.  Chapter leaders could work on planning events virtually between their chapters.
  • Maybe we can have a longer day on the first day, and do a shorter second day.
  • Maybe a community engagement session – where community members “pledge” for the year? That’s a half-baked idea. Just pondering.
  • Another author signing time.
  • More authors! 😉 Just kidding…mostly. Personal connections with authors is so powerful. Honestly, just the chance to attend even one more session or meet with our regional people during breakfast would be great. Maybe a panel q & a with the founding teacher/leaders? This really was such a great experience though!
  • More giveaways of books/swag if you get more sponsorship.
  • Feature service projects completed by chapters.
  • Having more ppl on devices getting the ball rolling so may need WiFi to be more accessible.
  • Even more sessions, authors, student led portions
  • A way for us to get to each of the author’s breakout sessions. And Project LIT merchandise is awesome. More of that is always good!
  • Time to plan, reflect, and collaborate.
  • keep being awesome!

Project LIT Summit Recap: Glows and Grows

The Project LIT Summit recap continues this morning with “glows,” positives from the event, and “grows,” ways that we can improve in the future. Thanks again to the educators for your feedback!


What did you enjoy most about the summit, and why?

  • The students at our table were amazing and so inspiring. The love they have found for books is something we are all hoping to model for all students.
  • Hearing from students and authors and getting to hear how other schools are implementing Project LIT.
  • I liked the breakout sessions by region. It was a bit less intimidating and fun to meet people who are close and plan possible interactions for the future.
  • Talking with students, listening to authors
  • The camaraderie between educators. We are all either starting or in our first years of the community so everyone is pushing everyone to be great.
  • I loved the authors being around to just talk. Living in rural Wisconsin, the opportunities for author visits are much more limited.
  • The excitement of the day was contagious and I really enjoyed hearing from founding members and the authors who inspired them. It fueled me with the energy to come back and share the community in my district and larger Pittsburgh community.
  • Spending the day with others who love kids and books and reading as much as I do. There are some really fantastic teachers in the U.S. It was awesome to get to network with them and pick their brains.
  • I enjoyed seeing the kids participate in true author panel because I believe that’s an important leadership quality we need to invest in. I also enjoyed having time to mingle with other chapters and brainstorming ideas.
  • Meeting the authors and having them available all day – what a great way to get inside their minds and see how they go about writing.
  • As I said earlier, I loved the IRL connections and the author panel, but I also loved the energy in the room and especially the student participation! It was SO inspiring.
  • Engaging with educators and students mostly! To my knowledge, this is the first event of this kind where students and educators come together for learning and literature. This is epic! And hopefully our students enjoyed this experience and will tell others.
  • I enjoyed everything. I loved being at that school, being in Nashville, seeing these awesome authors that I love, and getting to interact with teachers of been following him in trying to talk to on Twitter.
  • I enjoyed the people. The environment was extremely self-affirming. Being around like-minded educators and students showed me that what I thought, what I was doing, and what I wanted to do IS what’s best for kids and for the profession. These people are awesome.
  • Meeting and interacting with the authors – all of them were so personable and seemed genuinely happy to be there and to talk to the summit attendees.
  • Hearing the students speak, their testimonies and passion
  • Hearing from the authors; they are our rockstars and it’s great when they want to come and share who they are and why they write.
  • The time for communication and interaction with other teachers who see the value in new books. Also, I loved hearing from students who have been impacted by Project LIT.
  • Hands down, the time with authors. It was the best!!! I spent more time with Nic Stone than I did with other project leaders and it was awesome.
  • Hearing student testimonies because ultimately this should be all about them!
  • The connections with educators all over the country. I feel that the Project LIT Family is closer now that we have spent a day collaborating and engaging with each other. It was valuable time well spent.
  • Meeting people bc it felt like coming home to your people and getting to engage with authors in such a low key down to earth way – most conferences don’t have as much time for either of those things.

Do you have any suggestions or comments to help us improve future Project LIT Summits?

  • Maybe implement region/state coordinators to help upcoming chapters. Maybe do some regional events as well.
  • More authors! More students! More days!
  • Sessions that focus on the issues we are reading about. Demystifying Islam, Black Lives Matter and police violence toward African Americans, Being a LGTBQ teen. Etc.  I think people would gain much more confidence in sharing these texts if they understood more about the issues/had a chance to discuss with others.
  • It would be fun to see kids leading a session.
  • Hard work of local team was beyond evident. Kudos!!!!
  • I think if we can have some sessions or have a number of students involved in this to sit at educators’ tables to have discussions with the educators too. The more we can hear from the students who have benefit from it, the better.
  • It was great! I hope I’ll be able to attend again in future years – next year is uncertain depending on timing but it was absolutely wonderful.
  • Two author signing times – maybe one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Take the group picture somewhere where everyone can be seen.
  • As the community grows, I’d love to have an opportunity to lead/meet with other leaders in the state/area to just have a mid-year check-in.
  • I want to think more about a kid track and an adult track – how do we get more kids more actively involved in the whole day – what workshops/shorter chunks of time do we create that gets helps them all feel like leaders, contributors for next year? What activities/planning/projects could the kids work on to begin thinking about the upcoming year’s books – creating book trailers, posters, working with authors, even time to preview the upcoming books and see what themes, topics they might want to highlights, get them on Canva creating promotional materials, etc.?  How do we weave time with adults and time away from adults throughout the day?  How do we help more chapters bring kids?  How do we get more teachers contributing ideas for students’ breakout sessions?
  • Perhaps add an element of EdCamp style: a board in which people can write in what they want to discuss so mini-groups can form.
  • More sessions once there are more experienced chapters. Possibly student-led sessions too.
  • Having a site/ notes/ shared space ppl can log onto.
  • This year was pretty awesome. If you can replicate that for next year, I will be there for sure, and hopefully I will have lots of great stuff to share myself after a year as chapter leader!
  • More time. A second day. Ed Camp style. Things I’ve already mentioned in previous responses.
  • Organize the regional breakout session a bit more. This would be a great opportunity for teachers in close geographic areas to connect.

3 Steps to joining Project LIT flyer

Project LIT Summit: Educator Highlights & Takeaways

Following our inaugural Project LIT Summit, we asked attendees to complete a post-conference survey, so that we could determine what went well and identify areas of improvement for future events.

But, what’s the point of asking for feedback if you don’t do anything with it? Over the course of the week, we will share all of the survey responses, starting with educator highlights and major takeaways.

Whether you were able to make it to Nashville for our summit or followed from afar, hope you enjoy reading through the responses! (Additionally, check out our previous blog posts to read some of student testimonials from the day.)


A highlight of Project LIT Summit was…

  • Getting to meet all the students and educators passionate about Project LIT.
  • The authors were just amazing. And meeting students from established chapters!
  • The author panel! I wish my students had been along to hear it!
  • Meeting so many new colleagues and getting the chance to interact with authors.
  • I truly enjoyed Julia Torres’ session. I wish she had more time. Hearing the kids share their journeyed was powerful.
  • Meeting the authors and hearing from them in more intimate settings.
  • The author panel!  They are all so personable and interesting.  And it definitely made me love them even MORE!
  • All of it?  I loved every minute!
  • Connecting with students.
  • Seeing students lead and sharing their excitement.
  • Getting to meet and talk to other members I have been following on Twitter.
  • Being able to share this opportunity with two of my students and seeing how this energized and inspired them!
  • The panel – and I usually don’t like panels. I want to STEAL that idea.
  • Seeing the passion of the young people and hearing their stories!
  • Meeting and working with the students.
  • All the time I got to spend with the authors. It was HUGE!
  • Connecting with amazing LIT educators. Being able to connect face to face elevated our community.
  • Getting to know more about Tiffany Jackson and the breakout session with Julia Torres was AMAZING!
  • I loved seeing the student leaders. They are some amazing people and I hope to help to empower my students to step up into leadership as well. All of it. It was so much more than I anticipated.
  • To see the students actively participating and leading the work of the day.
  • Meeting fellow leaders from across the country who have similar passions.
  • Getting to meet everyone from he Twitterverse!
  • Connecting with authors in such a low key and authentic way. I loved watching all of them prioritizing their time with students above all, and hearing their insights and advice. It was also so great to talk with other educators about the work. Julia’s session and guidance was just incredible. So amazed and proud of the work she is doing.
  • Finally meeting my Twitter fam IRL!
  • After the summit, running into other ProjectLIT leaders at ALA
  • 1. Meeting and hearing Kwame Alexander 2. Being around other educators who value diversity in literature.
  • Finding people from Twitter IRL and making F2F connections!


What are some of your major takeaways from Project LIT Summit 18?

  • There is a need for the work the Project LIT community is doing. This is what community is really all about.
  • There is a lot of momentum and love for what we’re doing; we’re on the right track!
  • The kids do the majority of the work. I feel like I have a much better understanding and “vision” of what our chapter can look like starting next year.
  • A stack of books to read and an overall sense of how Project LIT works and how I can get it started.
  • “Make sure all the books are for all the kids.”
  • I still have a lot to learn.  I really appreciated the discussion of what challenges others face and how to most effectively get support from the community.  I also took with me the energy and excitement of teachers who love great YA Lit and are working hard to give meaningful texts to kids.
  • Invest in student leadership and find a community partner.
  • Great ideas for teaching these books in my classroom.  Great books to use that I hadn’t thought of.  Great ways to make it more student led – including my classroom.
  • I’m not alone.
  • Just the IRL connections between the people I follow online was AMAZING.
  • There are more of us than I thought.  😘
  • Together, we are a mighty force for bringing books to Ss and for reading them ourselves, we are better.
  • The power of empowering students to be at the helm; this movement is infectious and we have the power to impact and changes lives of not only students, but adults as well.
  • The work Project LIT is doing is not just important but ESSENTIAL for us to reach our maximum effectiveness as educators.
  • The students’ leadership
  • SEEING all the other chapters together, connected, and inspired made it REAL (I see it on Twitter, but dang!). So impressive.
  • As I launch I have a whole PLN to support my efforts.
  • The energy, the ideas about how to start, the belief that we can take this a long way.
  • Schedule our flight not so close to the start of the Summit, how to actually run a book club meeting and what it looks like, and how to let my students lead in a variety of ways.
  • Collaborate more with Ss–they don’t hide their feelings about what they like & don’t; they also have great ideas to change things they don’t like.  I’ll involve them more in planning our year & advocating w other Ts that their voice needs more of a place in our Project LIT planning (starting with which books we read).
  • There is more work to be done. My goal list grew to include: ramping up Project LIT West Coast, seeking out neighboring districts and educators to create new chapters, attend more conferences and do more presentations to change the canon. Our kids deserve it.
  • To not just use it as a club and after school program but to actually teach the books.
    I want to make sure I am giving my students the literature they want, and also things that will challenge them emotionally.
  • The students’ leadership
  • The connections- reinterating that I AM doing what’s best for my kids- The resources ( in print and in person).
  • Allowing choice for students is important.
  • The passion that everyone had at the summit was contagious. This community feels like it will explode in the next couple years forcing not only curriculum to change but how we read for leisure.
  • YA authors just are the realest. Not sure if it is the material they write about or just that they have more passion for their readers but there are no barriers and they seem to see the bigger picture of what literature should be.
  • There are more ways that we can infiltrate curriculum beyond just my book club.
  • Nic’s author session will stick with me- especially what she told us about hating the term “reluctant readers” also reaffirming my belief that these books are worthy of teaching/study. Finally that for any educational programming/teaching to be truly effective, we must keep students at the center and follow their lead.
  • I CAN do it. It’s MUCH easier than I thought. Start slow and grow. There are way more people doing this amazing work than I thought. I am not alone. We are not alone.
  • Giving kids a voice in their reading is critical, and there’s nothing wrong with encouraging literacy using new vehicles.
  • Community. Community. Community!

3 Steps to joining Project LIT flyer

Project LIT Summit: Student Reflection and Nic Stone Introduction

We’re continuing to share highlights from our inaugural Project LIT Summit (see part 1 & part 2). Below is Jakaylia’s welcome address and introduction of Nic Stone.

Nic J

Good morning and welcome to the first Project LIT Summit! My name is Jakaylia and I am a senior at Maplewood High School and one of the founders of Project LIT Community.

We’re so excited to have all of you here today as we celebrate one another.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a reader. I’ve been fortunate enough to have books around me and people in my life who encouraged me to read. You could say that books and I have always had a great relationship.

However, through Project LIT, I’ve definitely grown as a leader. I’m normally a shy person and if I’m being honest, I’ve never been that great at communicating with people. It was always awkward.

Being a part of Project LIT has given me the space and confidence to share my opinions with others and listen to what they have to say. It’s helped me learn a lot about real-life issues and what we can do together to make a change.

Over the past two years, we have already accomplished more than most thought possible. From collecting thousands of books and starting our community book club, to getting other chapters around the country to join our movement and planning our first of many summits, it has been an incredible journey.

Looking back, I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved and cannot wait to see what it’s in store in the future. Project LIT Community is going to change thousands of lives. It has already changed mine.

Project LIT Community is really about giving everyone the opportunity to love reading. A lot of kids today don’t enjoy reading because they think it’s boring and, if we’re being real, they’re not wrong.

A lot of the books students are forced to read in school are not relevant, interesting, or enjoyable. They’re out of date and out of touch with our lives.

That’s why Project LIT is so important. We’re showing kids and adults that books can be just as cool as TV shows, video games and sports.

Through Project LIT, we’ve had the opportunity to read some amazing books by authors who understand what it’s like to be a teenager today.

The Crossover. March. Ghost. All American Boys. The Hate U Give. Long Way Down. And many more.

While I’ve loved all of these books, there’s one that stands out. Dear Martin by Nic Stone.

Nic is one of the most influential people I’ve been honored to have in my life. She’s one of the sweetest and funniest people you’ll ever meet but most importantly, she’s real.

She’s not afraid to tell you how it is and will tell you that your opinion always matters. She inspires all of us to be ourselves and reminds us that it’s okay to be different. To stand out.

Nic’s visit to our book club earlier this year was one of the most memorable moments of our high school experience. As many of you know, Nic is kind, caring, and down-to-earth, and after that visit, we were even more determined to find our passions and change the world.

We know that Nic has the same effect in every school that she visits, and I have a feeling that thousands of teenagers across the country are more confident and courageous because of their interactions with her.

Now, it is with great pride and excitement that we welcome Nic. We appreciate every visit, every conversation, every Instagram post, and of course, every page of your books.

Thank you! We love you!

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!

Highlights from our inaugural Project LIT Summit

It’s July 5th, and I’m back in Nashville, refreshed and ready to start planning for the upcoming school year! First, however, I wanted to take some time to reflect on our inaugural Project LIT Summit. Over the next week, I plan to share highlights from the unforgettable day as well as some the post-summit reflections from our attendees.

Let’s start with two of our student leaders and Project LIT founders. Below you will find the transcript of Kiara’s welcome address and David’s introduction of Kwame Alexander. Both are rising seniors at Maplewood High School. (Video clips to come soon!)


Kiara 1

Good morning and welcome to the first ever Project LIT Summit. My name is Kiara and I am a senior at Maplewood High School.

I am a student-athlete and one of the founders of Project LIT Community. In 2016, all of this was just an idea. I remember making the first Project LIT video with Lauren in our library, and it’s crazy to see how far we’ve come in such a short time.

Project LIT has helped me grow as a person and genuinely changed my perspective on reading. And I have a feeling that many of you feel the same way.

Before we get started, on behalf of Project LIT Community, we want to thank a bunch of people who have helped make this day possible. To our sponsors, Book Source, the Nashville Chamber, Parnassus Books, and Perma-Bound.

To our amazing authors, Kwame Alexander, Tiffany Jackson, Nic Stone, and Jeff Zentner. To our community volunteers, especially my dad for hooking us up with lunch today, and to everyone who donated books, supplies, merchandise and your time.

And lastly, to all of you in this room. THANK YOU!

When we started Project LIT, we dreamed that our movement would spread globally, but we had no idea it would happen this soon.

Now, let’s kick this day off with a roll call.

When we call your state, please stand.

Tennessee. Alabama. Arkansas. California. Colorado. DC. Florida. Georgia. Illinois. Indiana. Kansas. Kentucky. Louisiana. Michigan. Mississippi. Missouri. New Jersey. New York. North Carolina. Ohio. Oregon. Pennsylvania. Texas. Virginia. Washington. Wisconsin. And any state we missed.

It’s an honor to have you all here for this incredible moment. And now that we’re all standing, let’s give it up again for another Project LIT founder, David, who will be introducing our first guest!


David 1

I heard about this guy

Off of some HE SAID, SHE SAID

But I didn’t know if I should give him a try

Everyone else was reading but me

And Mr. Amato asked why?

I tried to ignore him

So I put my headphones in and started to sing

He put a book on my desk and said


Do the right thing AND THEN YOU’LL KNOW

I was bored so OUT OF WONDER, I opened it up

and it was LIT from the go

My CRUSH for this man’s books started to grow

When it comes to authors, he’s the GOAT

Yeah, it’s okay Kwame, you can gloat

I just wanted to read more and if I didn’t


After I read his books, he passed the test

So for me it’s an honor to welcome the best …..


P  next

is the New York Times’ selling best

He’s an author of 25 books

to read them all you’ll have to cancel your plans

And tell all your fans

That you’re BOOKED

You can read it with a friend or SOLO

Few more seconds in this close game

And I got the crowd on their tiptoes

Coach and I discuss THE PLAYBOOK over

People roaring loud and waving the banners

I get the REBOUND and, like Filthy McNasty, I CROSS it OVER

To Kwame Alexander