A Shopping Day That Helps Fight Book Deserts

Project LIT Community students with author Kwame Alexander

How is Thanksgiving already this week? The fall has been flying by! Importantly for us, this weekend is not only one of the busiest of the year, it’s also one of our favorites. Why? IndieNashGiving, of course!

Also known as Small Business Saturday — and in the bookselling world it’s #IndiesFirst day (go visit your local bookstore, wherever it may be!) — there’s another wonderful aspect to this holiday here in Nashville. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a group of locally owned shops and restaurants all over Music City team up with nonprofits of their choice and pledge to donation a portion of their sales. This is the fifth consecutive year of IndieNashGiving, and so far it has raised almost $100,000 for nonprofits. Now that’s community power! Scroll down to see the list of this year’s participating businesses.

Here at Parnassus, we’re splitting our 2019 IndieNashGiving donations between two organizations we love: Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition — you can learn more about TIRRC or make a donation here — and Project LIT Community. Today, learn more about Project LIT, an organization that promotes books and reading for young people; it began in Nashville and has grown to include chapters around the country. Here’s a Q&A with founder Jarred Amato.

First off, can you give our readers the basics of Project LIT? What is it, and who is it for?

Project LIT Community is a grassroots literacy movement led and founded by incredible young people here in Nashville. The first Project LIT chapter launched at Maplewood High School in 2016, and over the past three years, approximately 1,200 schools, or “chapters,” across 48 states have joined our community. All of our chapters work together to increase access to high-quality, culturally sustaining books and promote a love of reading in our schools and communities. The first step is to get great books into our students’ hands, which we know is not always as easy as it should be. Books that matter. Books that spark important conversations. Books that affirm students’ lived experiences, cultures, and identities. Books that promote empathy and kindness. Books that encourage students to write stories of their own. Project LIT is not only about books; it’s also about belonging. We read and write alongside one another as we try to better ourselves and the world around us. (So, to answer your question, it’s for students and all the educators out there who want to ensure that all young people have positive literacy experiences.)

And backing up just a little, what was the inspiration for starting out?

In August 2016, my students and I read an article about book deserts and the importance of book access. From there, Project LIT (initially “Libraries In The”) Community was born. We crafted a mission and vision, designed a logo, organized a book drive, and began to set up little libraries (converted USA Today newsstands) across East Nashville. By January 2017, we started Project LIT Book Club, a monthly opportunity for students and adults to come together and discuss great books. We haven’t let up since!

How has the program evolved?

Organically. We started this project in one English classroom and utilized social media, particularly Twitter, to share our journey with the world, eventually encouraging other educators and students to join us in this important literacy work. Through passion and persistence, we’ve been able to improve literacy access, attitudes, and outcomes — one step, one book, and one conversation at a time. The most exciting part is that we’re just getting started!

If someone is interested in starting a Project LIT chapter, what’s involved?

Great question! Once they complete our chapter leader application, we will follow up with a “Project LIT starter kit” to help them launch whenever they’re ready. We also host an annual Project LIT Summit here in Nashville.

Can you talk about how you’ve seen students react to the program, and what they bring to it?

Our students are the heart and soul of this community. They drive everything that we do. As educators, it’s our responsibility to listen and learn and let our students lead this work. Project LIT empowers students of all ages, particularly middle and high school students, as readers, writers, and leaders. And it’s incredible to watch them fall in love with reading, whether it’s again or for the first time. As for our founding students, here’s a video from our senior sendoff last May. Additionally, 13 of our founders received full scholarships to Belmont University, including Jakaylia, who actually interviewed Nic Stone at Parnassus last month!

What else would you like people to know?

Thanks to everyone who continues to support our community. Please reach out if you’d like to get involved.

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Nashvillians: Get out there and support your local businesses that are paying it forward this Saturday!

Nashville independent business owners: Don’t miss your chance to turn a busy business weekend into life-changing outreach for your Nashville neighbors — be a part of IndieNashGiving! Fill out the form here to pledge your donation and choose the nonprofit your business will support. Then use the #IndieNashGiving tag to spread the word on social media.

The following locally owned businesses have committed to participate in IndieNashGiving, and these are their chosen beneficiaries. Look what an impact you’ll have when you shop or dine!

Bang Candy Company ★ Oasis Center
Bar Otaku ★ The Karen Wellington Foundation
The Blowout Co ★ The Nashville Food Project
Bongo Bakery ★ Book ‘Em and Bongo Community Foundation Fund
Bongo East ★ Book ‘Em and Bongo Community Foundation Fund
Bongo Java ★ Book ‘Em and Bongo Community Foundation Fund
The Bookshop ★ Crossroads
Brixx ★ Tennessee Alliance for Kids
Chopper Tiki ★ The Nashville Food Project
Dozen Bakery ★ TIRRC and The Nashville Food Project
Edley’s Bar-B-Que ★ Friends Life
Fenwick’s 300 ★ Book ‘Em and Bongo Community Foundation Fund
Fido ★ Book ‘Em and Bongo Community Foundation Fund
FLWR ★ CASA Nashville
Frothy Monkey (all locations) ★ Metro Police Christmas Charities
Game Point ★ Book ‘Em and Bongo Community Foundation Fund
The Green Pheasant ★ The Growing Together Project
Grimey’s ★ MusiCares
Grins ★ Book ‘Em and Bongo Community Foundation Fund
Gumption ★ Project R12
Halcyon Bike Shop ★ Oasis Center and TIRRC
Haum Nashville ★ The Nashville Humane Association
Hester & Cook ★ Wonderful Life Foundation
High Note Gifts ★ Room in the Inn
Las Paletas ★ Grow Enrichment
Levy’s ★ YWCA Weaver Domestic Violence Shelter
Little Gourmand ★ Monroe Harding
Magpie’s Baby and Child ★ Preston Taylor Ministries
Magpie’s Girl ★ Preston Taylor Ministries
Marché ★ The Nashville Food Project
Margot ★ The Nashville Food Project
Miel ★ St. Luke’s Community House
Nisolo ★ Ecosphere+ and Soles4Soles
Old Made Good ★ The Next Door
Otaku Ramen ★ The Nashville Food Project
The Paper Place ★ TIRRC
Parnassus Books ★ TIRRC and Project LIT
Plaid Rabbit ★ Songs for Sound and My Epilepsy Story
Two Ten Jack ★ TIRRC
Wilder ★ The Martha O’Bryan Center
The Wine Shoppe Green Hills ★ Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Woo Cosmetics ★ The Women’s Fund
Yeast Nashville ★ Dogs Deserve Better

Holiday Hours:
Wednesday, Nov. 27 — 10am-4pm
Thursday, Nov. 28 — Closed for Thanksgiving
Friday, Nov. 29 — opening early! — 9:30am-8pm
Saturday, Nov. 30 — opening early! — 9:30am-8pm