December 17, 2018

Student Literacy Corps collects record number of books

The book drive held through Webster’s community service program Student Literacy Corps (SLC) was founded in 2001. The organization collected its 20,000th book this year. Typically held in the fall, this year’s drive collected a total of 688 books, making a total number of 20,063.

The SLC hires Webster students to be tutors at underprivileged neighborhood schools around St. Louis. The tutors are paid to teach these students literacy skills like reading and writing.

As of this year, the SLC, directed by Kate Northcott, has over 800 tutors serving over 11,000 students. The program has hosted the book drive for 17 years, while also hiring and paying Webster student tutors to travel to low income schools in St. Louis to help the students read and write.  

“The big picture to think of over 20,000 books is ridiculous,” Northcott said. “When I added it up and realized that it’s like, holy mackerel, that’s incredible. Of course it happened one book at a time.”

When the books are collected from the drive every fall, the tutors help deliver them to the schools where they tutor, in addition to schools outside those areas. Northcott said her favorite part about the drive is seeing how the students are impacted by them.

“We have literally brought books to teachers, and they started to cry,” Northcott said. “To me, that’s the part I keep. That’s a lot more amazing than the 20,000 books–the impact it has. These teachers care so much that they want to expand the resources for the students they work with.”

The current tutors of the SLC are of various majors. Donalda Desir is a psychology major who said she wants to be a child psychologist and likes her work because of the impact she feels she makes on the students’ lives.

“I enjoy making a difference in my students’ lives, especially with one in particular,” Desir said. “He has some behavioral issues, but when I’m working with him, I can see how great of a student he is and as a person.”

Another tutor and script writing major Norah Okilee said in addition to the general idea of impacting students, the job is exciting.

“My experience with tutoring has been consistently exciting,” Okilee said. “I’ve always taken the most humanistic approach as possible when it comes to working with kids, and they make it so natural. I really cherish the time I have with them.”

Northcott also said she once interviewed a student for a SLC tutor position whom she later found out had been impacted by the SLC book drive as a third grader.

“I mentioned our book drive, and her eyes got really big,” Northcott said. “She told me what school she had gone to. She was like, ‘I got one in the third grade, and I still have it. It was the first hardcover book I ever owned.’ The two of us are just like sobbing because she was 10 years later starting college, and she didn’t know where that book came from when she was a third grader.”

After collecting over 600 books, the tutors are now working on delivering the books to schools around St. Louis.

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