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Robert Schmitz

BJC Book Brigade marches on

When second-graders in public school districts served by BJC HealthCare pack up their desks at the end of the school year, they’ll have a brand new book to take home to encourage their summer reading.

In its fourth year, the BJC Book Brigade provides more than 26,000 books to rising third-graders in over 300 public and charter schools in 63 districts throughout the communities served by BJC hospitals, including St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Columbia, Sullivan and Farmington in Missouri; and Alton, Belleville and Shiloh, Illinois. The program is a BJC community outreach effort in recognition of the correlation between education and higher income, better health and longer life expectancy.

As part of the program, hospital presidents from across BJC visited schools in their communities to read to area second-graders and help give out books. Rich Liekweg, BJC president and CEO, said the opportunity to spend time with the young students was a bright spot in his day.

“While it may seem like a modest effort to us, many of the children who received a book last year wrote touching notes to express thanks for a brand new book of their own,” added Liekweg. “In the journey toward higher education and better health, the BJC Book Brigade is one small step that will take a very long time. But, we believe it’s well worth the long-term effort toward improved reading, high school graduation rates and, ultimately, better health for the future.”

Book titles are selected by curriculum specialists based on age-appropriate content and storyline messages. Employees have the opportunity to donate books online through Scholastic Books, and BJC supplies the remainder. Books are packaged and delivered in partnership with Valley Industries sheltered workshop in Hazelwood, Missouri.

Click here to see a KSDK-TV news story featuring the BJC Book Brigade.

‘Reading is so important’

Alton Memorial Hospital president Dave Braasch visited North Elementary School in Godfrey, Illinois, May 9 to read to second-graders and help give out books.

Student Jahbron Caldwell, 8, was glad to get a book called “I Just Want to Say Good Night.”

“I want to read it as much as I can and then read it to my little sister,” Jahbron said. “Reading teaches you words you don’t know.”

Morgan Crain, also 8, received a book called “Dog is My Co-Pilot.”

“I like dogs, so I like reading about them,” Morgan said. “I love reading, so thank you very much for giving us these books.”

Michelle Bick, a second-grade teacher at North Elementary School, said reading during the summer is critical for children.

“A summer slide can happen if they don’t keep reading,” she said. “Reading is so important because it’s a skill needed in all the other subjects. And the Book Brigade is wonderful because we have lots of students from low-income families, so some of them might not otherwise have a lot of books in the summer.”

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