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Dual-District Partnership Blooms with Plant a Library Program

North Kirkwood Middle School (NKMS) has a school-wide focus on service learning. Teachers and students are challenged to lean into an issue or initiative to foster change. The groups meet on a near monthly basis, and quarterly service-learning days are planned.

One group at NKMS sought to foster change with literacy awareness. Sixth-grade students in the “Plant a Library” group learned that not every school in the St. Louis area had the resources for a comprehensive and diverse library collection. The students, led by teachers Karen Ambuehl and Jen Siegel, decided the goal of the group was to: "Help us pass on the seeds of literacy and watch the love of reading grow!"

Across town, Administrators and teachers at Oak Hill Elementary School in the Saint Louis Public School District have a focused transformation plan for “All Students Learn to Read and Succeed.” Staff at Oak Hill have been contemplating ways on how to grow their library to support this effort. However, with a limited budget and limited finances of Oak Hill families, they were trying to figure out where to find resources.

Ambuehl grew up in the Oak Hill neighborhood and was aware of the school’s efforts. She contacted Oak Hill staff members about the service-learning group at NKMS looking to fulfill their goal. The partnership grew over the past several months.

NKMS students created an awareness campaign around the importance of early childhood literacy and led a Kirkwood community book drive. The group was overwhelmed with the donations, as over 12,000 books from KSD community members were collected.

Once collected, the Plant a Library group of students worked to curate books across multiple reading levels and content types. “The book collection was very thoughtful and collaborative,” said Siegel.  “We are incredibly grateful to our generous Kirkwood School District community.”

With the collecting, sorting, and curating complete, the NKMS group was ready to plant the library. Former NKMS students and staff, and former NKMS students who are now students at Kirkwood High School helped transport and set-up the book fair. On Friday, April 5, NKMS students traveled to Oak Hill, to plant multiple libraries for the students, staff, and school. First, all 253 students at Oak Hill participated in a book fair. NKMS students partnered with Oak Hill students, to peruse the books. Students collected books in donated Trader Joe’s bags, with the intention to bring home 20-30 books to “plant” a library at home. After the collection, NKMS and Oak Hill students read together. Next, Oak Hill staff collected books to enhance the library in their classroom space. All remaining books were donated to the Oak Hill school library. “This book drive is greatly enhancing our existing library at Oak Hill. There are so many wonderful, diverse selections. I know these new books will peak reading interest for all of our students and help us with our transformation plan,” said Dr. Tina Hamilton, principal of Oak Hill Elementary. 

Oak Hill students were excited to get home to read their new books. “I’m so excited to take all the books home so I can read them!”, said Oak Hill kindergartener Jordan. NKMS plans on continuing the partnership next school year. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn and grow as readers and leaders through this important personal and social skill development,” said Siegel.