Kristen Flood and the UMSL Writers Group aim to collect 300 books for local preschoolers

by | Apr 18, 2017

Flood's own journey toward a love of reading, coupled with a College of Education field experience, fueled the idea for the initiative.
Kristen Flood, UMSL

Early childhood education major and UMSL Writers Group President Kristen Flood displays one of the donation boxes for the Riverview Gardens book drive in front of the Triton Store. Flood says reading is a favorite activity for her own son, Lucas, whom she reads to for 30 minutes – at minimum – every day.  (Photo by August Jennewein)

Kristen Flood remembers a time when she absolutely hated reading.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis undergrad was tested for reading proficiency early on in elementary school and was thought to be below reading level. She received reading tutoring and support, and a few years later, by fifth grade, she not only met the reading requirements for her grade level but far surpassed them.

Before long, she was entering reading contests and reading a book a week. At one point she even aimed to read a book a day.

Looking back, Flood believes the change came about not because of anything having to do with her own abilities, but because of the time and effort the reading specialists and her teachers put into helping her engage with books.

“Before then I don’t think anyone had really taken the time to bring books to life for me, to introduce me to the whole world of reading and what reading could mean and do,” Flood says. “I think that’s what really made all the difference.”

Now Flood is personally committed to introducing other young children to that powerful world.

The early childhood education major – and self-published author who has three novels under her belt – has recently helped to spearhead a book drive which will benefit local children at the Riverview Gardens Early Childhood Educational Center. Flood and the UMSL Writers Group, of which she is president, hope to collect 300 books for the center over the course of the next month.

The idea came to Flood by way of UMSL’s partnership with The Magic House – one of many community collaborations that the College of Education fosters in order to get its future teacher candidates into diverse and multifaceted practicum experiences as early and as often as possible.

Flood was enrolled in Early Childhood Education 4348 – The Acquisition of Mathematical and Science Concepts. The class, taught by The Magic House’s Julie Tubbs, who is also an adjunct instructor with UMSL, introduces future teachers to math and science content that’s appropriate for pre-K through third-grade students, as well as delivery methods, effective teaching strategies and research around the ways in which young children learn and acquire such information.

The course includes field experience opportunities in which Magic House education staff and UMSL students visit local schools to offer interactive demonstrations.

That’s how Flood came to find herself in the library of Riverview Gardens Early Childhood Educational Center one afternoon. As she sat with her UMSL classmates waiting for the preschoolers to be brought into the room, she looked around and noticed that the library only housed a very small assortment of books – one bin to be exact.

She immediately wanted to be a part of changing that.

Flood met with the center’s director, explained that the UMSL Writers Group, which leads a reading-related service project each year, was looking for a new initiative and might be able to help, and a partnership was quickly formed.

“I know from all of my classes at UMSL and my other work and experience in education that those pre-K years are so vital,” Flood explained. “It’s just such an important time developmentally, and so I looked around and thought, ‘If they don’t have the books, they’re really missing out.’ There’s the exposure to all of the words and vocabulary they could be learning, but there’s also that whole world of books and a love of reading. I really wanted to help, and I knew my colleagues would, too.”

With the Writers Group on board, Flood connected with Assistant Professor of Early Childhood and Special Education Charis Price, who helped the education student brainstorm ways to make the book drive a success. They identified partners across campus who would be willing to help by offering donation locations.

Flood says she was not surprised at all by the immediate support from Price and other UMSL faculty. In her experience, it’s a regular occurrence.

“I love being an education major at UMSL. And in all honesty, I really love the professors. Dr. Price, Lynn Navin, Gerianne Friedline in the honors college and Kate Watt in the English department – they and many others have been wonderful. They’re so dedicated to their different specialties. I feel like they all have fantastic backgrounds full of experience, and they’re so passionate and so quick to help that it makes me want to be that way, too.”

The book drive to benefit Riverview Gardens Early Childhood Educational Center kicked off April 13 and will continue through May 6. While the drive is specifically geared toward collecting books that are appropriate for pre-K children, any elementary school-level donations will also be accepted. Donation boxes have been placed outside the Triton Store, in the Center for Teaching and Learning, the English department, the College of Education and the Pierre Laclede Honors College.

For more information or to inquire about specific donation locations, contact Flood.

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