NEHS Supports The Believe Projects

In metropolitan St. Louis 80% of Black third graders annually fail in Reading (MODESE). According to the US Department of Education, students who are not strong readers in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Third grade reading proficiency is the marker that can determine a student’s success in school and in life (Kid’s Count Report). Imagine this, you are a Black third grader in any American public or private school on any day in any year. The expectation is for you to master the skills, concepts, and ideas taught to you especially during Reading and English Language Arts instruction. However, the stories written in the books given to you do not reflect your lived experiences, share foods you are familiar with, find the funny in things you think are funny, or describe the rhythms, language, or sounds flowing through the windows and doors in your neighborhood. The stories are not the ones you hear about on “the block” every day where you live. What then becomes of your school experience? You can eventually become numb to what the school describes as “learning.” Why is this so? Because you may begin to believe you are—invisible.

The Believe Projects is a reimagined affective pathway for children in preschool through eighth grade to build interest, confidence, and the skills necessary to become successful readers as they fall in love with books! Using “literacy labs” students have the freedom to self-explore in culturally responsive homestyle settings with bright colorful and comfortable furniture, lots of pillows, and beautiful life-sized murals. At the center of the labs are more than 1,000 books authored by Black, Latinx, and Indigenous voices.

Our students, the Believers, receive up to ten books annually to build their home libraries. In November 2023, 2,000 of our Believers met New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds and award-winning illustrators Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey. The students received autographed copies of their award-winning picture book There Was a Party for Langston. Our students saw the live musical Last Stop on Market Street and received autographed copies of The Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena. We aim to make literacy and literature magical culturally relevant experiences. Jason Reynolds summed it up well for us, “The Believe Projects is cool! And cool is currency!”

St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature is thrilled to be a 2023 recipient of the National English Honor Society Literacy Initiative Grant. Funding from NEHS makes it possible for readers to succeed at The Dr. Kashina Bell Believe 11 Literacy Lab at Jackson Park Elementary School in The School District of University City.

“Our goal is simple,” says Julius B. Anthony, President of the St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature and The Believe Projects, “When children have consistent access to images and literacy that reflects their cultural experiences, they will see themselves and read, laugh, learn, sing, become well, and be filled with joy! This will ensure all children become successful readers by the end of third grade.”

NEHS Director Chris Lockwood and Director of Marketing and Communications Katie Mudd visit the Believe Lab 11.

St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature (STLBACL), founded in 2018, fosters awareness about the importance of early literacy by creating innovative opportunities for all kids to have access to culturally representative literature. The Believe Projects is STLBACL’s award-winning initiative. Through this work students self-guide their learning in uniquely designed “literacy labs” that include art, music, and access to more than 1,000 books authored by Black, Latinx, and Indigenous voices. Since fall 2019, The Believe Projects has opened four preschool, thirteen elementary school, and one middle school Believe Literacy Labs. The organization serves 5,000 students annually, gives away over 30,000 books to build home libraries, and supports more than 60 local authors, visual artists, and musicians. STLBACL ensures all children become confident and competent readers by the end of third grade.

Julius B. Anthony
St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature, President
The Believe Projects, President


Literacy Initiative Grant

NEHS has provided financial support to non-profit organizations local to the Sigma Tau Delta convention cities for a number of years. We are now able to expand our support and provide funding not only to organizations close to the convention city, but also across the USA and around the world.

The Literacy Initiative Grant aims to support literacy-focused non-profit community organizations working with children and young people that foster any aspects of literacy including literature, language, writing, and media, and to help organizations develop, expand, or maintain their community literacy programming.

If you would like further information about eligibility or would like to nominate a literacy-focused non-profit organization within your community for the grant, please email Chris Lockwood, NEHS Director at

Applications for the 2024-2025 academic year will be accepted this fall.