Why they call it the “Show Me” state.

Principal Terri Steffes ... "before"

Apparently, Missouri school principals are crazy – crazy for books, that is.

Take Terri Steffes, for instance. On March 31, the indomitable Chris Bradshaw, founder of the African Library Project, visited Principal Steffes’ California Elementary School in the “Show Me” state, to talk to students about her amazing organization that has built 639 libraries in Africa with 683,000 books donated by people across America.

Principal Steffes... "after" (Photo by John Inman)

Bradshaw mentioned to Principal Steffes that another Missouri principal had promised his students that he’d get a Mohawk if they could collect 1,000 books – and did. Not one to be topped, Steffe immediately chirped, “Gee, I’d do that!” And the rest is hairstory.

On May 9, in front of the entire student assembly, Principal Steffe got punk’d by a cadre of devoted stylists – because her students had donated 1,360 books to send to children in Africa. And California Middle School Principal Matt Abernathy also got in on the act – shaving his head and his beloved goatee of 15 years.

Child of Lesotho, where ALP started.

This kind of devotion to the African Library Project isn’t new to the California school district of Missouri. Thanks to the passionate work of teachers Nicki Kelley, Jill Meisenheimer and Heidi Loring, and a Character Education Trait program that emphasizes service to others, the school district has created nine libraries in Africa over the past four years! And each one of these libraries will open the doors of literacy for children in Africa, where the level of illiteracy sometimes reaches 40% of the population.

Literacy is the #1 tool for breaking the cycle of poverty, but without books African schools and communities are severely handicapped in providing an education for those who desperately want it.

Chris Bradshaw’s brainchild is now an all-volunteer, all-donor organization that throws out this irresistible challenge to Girl Scouts, businesses, school groups, book clubs and churches: Donate 1,000 books, raise $500, add a little elbow grease, and you can start a library in Africa!

Personally, I can’t think of anything more impactful in teaching children the transformative value of books, the joyful power of giving .. and what a rock star your principal is!  Go to African Library Project to learn more.