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District Celebrates the Opening of a Second Believe Projects Literacy Lab

Believe Project Ribbon Cutting


Barbara C. Jordan Elementary School is now home to the newest Believe Projects® literacy lab. The lab contains hundreds of children’s books featuring characters and authors of color so that students of all backgrounds can better identify with storylines  and build literacy at the same time. 

This is the second lab of its kind in the The School District of University City. Pershing Elementary School’s Literacy Lab opened in the fall of 2021.

The initiative, spearheaded by the St. Louis Black Authors of Children's Literature,  aims to improve reading proficiency among students in kindergarten through third grade. The lab provides easy access to books that reflect the images and culturally relevant experiences of young readers.

Parents, caregivers, students and staff attended a morning ribbon cutting ceremony for the lab on April 27, 2023. The ceremony featured special remarks, performances by students and snacks.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students who struggle with reading in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. The Believe Projects® literacy labs aim to engage and connect students with the world they read about, helping them develop strong reading skills.

The lab at Barbara C. Jordan Elementary School features a colorful, homestyle setting, complete with a culturally responsive wall mural and paintings produced by local artists. The space features books by local and national authors.

Funding for the project was made possible through the Build-A-Bear Foundation, which aims to inspire creativity and make written stories more accessible for kids and educators. The foundation's president, Chris Hurt, emphasized the critical role that literacy plays in a child's wellbeing, imagination, and success.

The School District of University City is committed to racial equity and sees the literacy lab as a powerful learning tool for its students. Superintendent Dr. Sharonica Hardin-Bartley expressed gratitude for the vision of The Believe Projects® and its supporters, which include the Build-A-Bear Foundation.

“We are excited and grateful to welcome a second literacy lab in The School District of University City thanks to the outstanding vision of The Believe Projects®. The literacy labs are critical components of our district’s commitment to racial equity and are also powerful learning tools for our students. It is liberating and healthy for our students to read about and enjoy illustrations of main characters and literary heroes that reflect themselves,” Hardin-Bartley said. 

The Believe Projects® president, Julius B. Anthony, sees the lab as an opportunity to encourage children to fall in love with literacy through experiences that build confidence and joy. The lab has the support of several community partners, including Nine PBS, The Noble Neighbor, Ready Readers, Metro Theater Company, and the Whitaker Foundation.

“Our goal is simple,” Anthony said. “We want to encourage children to fall in love with literacy through experiences they feel a connection with, that builds confidence, and gives them joy! It is to ensure all children become successful readers by the end of third grade.”