The BJC Book Brigade is back – 3/4/2019
This year’s Book Brigade is open until March 15

Author: ROBERT S./Monday, March 04, 2019

Look at me!
Look at me now!
It is fun to have fun,
but you have to know how!

– Dr. Seuss

Rich Liekweg

BJC | Many of you may recognize this quote from “The Cat in the Hat,” which was my favorite book as a child. And, let’s be honest, this is an important message to remember even now as adults.

This quote makes me think about one of my most fun days in 2018, a day in May when I visited a second-grade class at Oak Hill Elementary School to deliver our BJC Book Brigade book donations and read to the kids. They were so excited to receive their very own book to take home for the summer. As I handed out the books, many of the kids sat right down and started reading! That day was a wonderful opportunity to see the incredible impact our BJC Book Brigade program has on the kids in our communities.

If you aren’t familiar with the BJC Book Brigade, it’s a very special employee service program we created a few years ago that provides every graduating second-grader attending public school in the communities BJC serves a new book to read during summer vacation.

Why graduating second-graders? Because studies have shown that a third-grader’s reading proficiency can improve the likelihood the child will graduate from high school and live a healthier life.

BJC president and CEO Rich Liekweg reads to second-graders during last year’s BJC Book Brigade. | Courtesy photo

We’re now four years into the BJC Book Brigade, and we have provided more than 73,000 graduating second-graders with a new book. We will add to that total in 2019 by providing 26,000 books to nearly 400 elementary schools throughout the communities BJC serves, including St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Columbia, Sullivan and Farmington in Missouri; and Alton, Belleville and Shiloh in Illinois.

If you haven’t participated in the past, here’s how it works: We have a special website set up — — where team members can purchase a book to donate. The website is also open to our families, friends and community partners who would like to make an impact on a child’s life. Each book costs $2.50, thanks to a partnership we have with Scholastic books.

All book donations are sent to a very special place called Valley Industries, a non-profit sheltered workshop in Hazelwood, Missouri, where workers sort, label, pack and ship the books to the schools. Valley Industries, which employs more than 200 people with developmental disabilities, partners with companies across the St. Louis metropolitan area on projects ranging from wrapping and packaging services, to mailing services and other flexible, labor-intensive services.

After the books are purchased online, processed and delivered to the schools, the real fun begins — handing out the books to the kids. Last year several of our hospital presidents and executives visited local schools to help distribute the books and spent time reading with students, and we’ll do that again this year. I’m personally looking very forward to visiting another school in May to hand-deliver the gifts from all of us at BJC HealthCare.

I can’t think of a better way to spend $2.50. If we all participate and each buy just one book, together we will make a significant impact on helping kids in our communities improve their reading literacy, increase their high school graduation rates and, ultimately, live healthier lives.

To learn more, or to purchase a book for the BJC Book Brigade, visit The BJC Book Brigade runs through March 15 and everyone is welcome to participate.

Rich Liekweg, BJC president and CEO

Email me at and follow me on Twitter @bjc_president.


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