Sami Noteboom started with about 200 books hidden in Sheldon, Iowa

By Rachel DeSantis
December 04, 2019 12:26 PM

An Iowa teenager is inspiring local children to crack open a book and get to reading with a special program that’s turned her small town into a sort of mobile library.

Sami Noteboom, 17, was on the hunt for a meaningful community service project when the idea for Sheldon Look 4 a Book was brought to her by stepmom Amanda, who’d seen a similar project on Facebook.

“Reading was hard for her at first, so for us to see the process get easier for her was a relief,” Amanda told ABC News. “If putting books in the hands of children makes reading easier for them… then why not help them succeed?”

The mission is simple: hidden around town are a series of children’s books, each in a Ziploc baggie with a laminated note encouraging kids to either read the book or pass it along before re-hiding it for someone else to find.

Sami got the ball rolling back in September with a $250 grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, which allowed her to start with about 200 books, the Sioux City Journal reported.

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“I was kind of skeptical of it, [thinking] that kids wouldn’t want to go out and look for books and then read them,” she told the outlet.

But within 20 minutes of hiding her first books, local parents were already sharing photos of their children stumbling upon the hidden treasures to a Facebook page Sami had organized.

That Facebook page has since become a hub for excited kids to share their finds, which come from everywhere from local churches and restaurants to parks and rec centers.

Since the beginning, people have donated additional books to the cause, and Amanda, who is a school teacher, has been able to contribute by getting books from her classroom.

“It’s fun to see the kids coming into class excited to tell me they found a book,” Amanda told ABC News.

Sami encourages those who find books to hide them wherever they please, including in neighboring towns, and says some have even been found as far away as Texas.

“I want it to spread across the U.S.,” she told ABC.

So far, Amanda said two high schools in the area have already started similar book finds near Sheldon, a town of about 5,200 people.

“It gets the kids really excited about literacy,” Heather Keizer, a Sheldon middle school language arts teacher, told the Journal. “What high schooler would think of that to help others? She has a servant attitude, and we are really blessed to have her in our school.”