Literacy Thrives in Kirkwood!


By: Beth von Behren on May 2, 2012 Print This Post

Here’s some news I came across today that I have not seen splashed across ANY newspaper front pages in the area (and St. Louis Commerce almost buried it):  The St. Louis region ranked 8th (out of 75 communities) in the 2011 America’s Most Literate Cities study, conducted by Central Connecticut State University.  The annual rankings, of communities with populations of 250,000 or larger, focus on six key indicators for a metropolitan region: Newspaper circulation,

The Arch City is also a Literate City!

number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.  Washington, D.C., tops the list, with Seattle in the #2 spot, followed by Minneapolis, Atlanta, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.  San Francisco and Denver have the 9th and 10th spots after St. Louis.

THIS IS HUGE!  Of course, we St. Louisans know our city is literate.  We have THREE library systems here – St. Louis Public Library, Saint Louis County Library, and the Municipal Library Consortium of St. Louis County, of which Kirkwood Public Library is a member (KPL’s own Sarah Erwin is President).  The region also has a strong tradition of independent bookstores, private schools, award-winning public schools, and a world-renowned daily newspaper founded by a family whose name is literally synonymous with journalism. Still, to be recognized by an outside study for our reading habits is a feel-good moment and one we should be celebrating.

I invite YOU to celebrate by joining Sarah and me in the first-ever “One Book, One Kirkwood” community-wide reading project.  For 2012, we are reading The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert, which is a book that can be read across generations – from about 5th or 6th grade (depending on your child’s abilities) through adult.  The goal of the project, in fact, is to encourage reading and discussion across all ages.  Stop by KPL when you have a chance and pick up a copy of the book and a Reading Guide (also available on their Website here).  If you have never checked out a book from KPL, now’s your chance to open your FREE library card and start borrowing. They have many copies of the book available (some of which were donated).

The Community Read concept actually comes from Seattle, where the first event of this kind took place back in 1998 (so it’s no coincidence that Seattle is #2 on the Most Literate list or that it has often been in the #1 spot).

The Kirkwood project will culminate with two events – a book discussion on June 14 at 7pm at the Library and a visit with the book’s author on June 27 at 7pm, also at the Library.  We hope you will join us by reading the book and attending one or both of these events!

Here’s a quick summary of the book:

A summary of the book: “When a young country girl is reported to be missing, perhaps whisked away by an itinerant aerial photographer, Essie (an octogenarian obituary writer for her family’s small town newspaper) stumbles onto the story of her life. Or, it all could be simply a hoax, or a delusion, the child and child-thief invented from the desperate imagination of a lonely, lovelorn woman. Either way, the story of the girl reaches far and wide, igniting controversy, attracting curiosity-seekers from all over the country to this rural town. And then it is revealed that the long awaited final book of an infamous series of gothic novels is being secretly printed on the newspaper’s presses. The Coffins of Little Hope tells a feisty, energetic story of characters caught in the intricately woven webs of myth, legend and deception even as Schaffert explores with his typical exquisite care and sharp eye the fragility of childhood, the strength of family, the powerful rumor mills of rural America, and the sometimes dramatic effects of pop culture on the way we shape our world.”




Written by Beth

Beth von Behren is the Public Information Officer for the City of Kirkwood. She manages the City Website ( and writes/edits both the monthly "Eye on Kirkwood" (published on the last Friday of the month inside the "Webster-Kirkwood Times") and the every-other-weekly e-newsletter "Kirkwood Happenings." To sign up for the e-newsletter, send an email to