Two years ago, Jarred Amato read an article to his freshman English class that described book deserts or pockets where books are not accessible. The article detailed the life-long consequences and inequities children faced if they lived in a book desert.
Amato asked his students if they could collectively find a way to help.
"We just wrote letters and started collecting books and getting a lot of donations," said student Jakaylia Smith. "It was pretty cool."
Those donations have turned into a national movement called Project LIT, which now has chapters in several states. The organization has also expanded its mission to not only increase access to books, but to ensure children can read books with characters and storylines that reflect their own lives.
"When I was growing up, there were no young adult books," said author Tiffany Jackson. "We had books that didn’t reflect our realities. It was a lot of white kids with picket fences and back yards. I didn’t grow up in that reality. I grew up in an apartment."
Jackson was one of the speakers at Project LIT's first summit. More than 200 people from 27 states attended.
"It’s about helping all children see themselves in books and making reading fun and accessible," Amato said. "And spreading that passion and excitement by giving kids a choice and allowing them to read books that are relevant and real to them."
If you'd like to learn more about Project LIT or get involved, you can reach out to Amato via the group's Facebook page.