Finders, Readers


Sheldon, Iowa

She says the most surprising thing about her book project is how quickly it started working. Sami Noteboom remembers going out to a bike trail in her small town last fall and hiding the first book. She says she thought it might take days or weeks before that book was discovered. “Boy was I wrong!” she says. “We had our first post and book found within hours!” That’s the way it works. Sami packages each book in a protective bag and includes a note. Each kid who finds a book is encouraged to post a picture with it, enjoy reading the book and then hide it again for someone new to discover.

This book finding idea is the pet project of graduating high school senior Sami Noteboom and her supportive, teacher stepmom, Amanda. They’ve worked together to gather and sprinkle throughout the community more than 400 books now in circulation around Sheldon, Iowa, and beyond. “What kid doesn’t want to go look for a book, read it, and then re-hide it? It allows the kids to get outside, but also read a book.”

A bonus for Sami has been rediscovering books that she loved when she was younger. “I specifically remember being read the Kissing Hand. I remember that Chester is scared of starting Kindergarten, but his mother reassures him that there is nothing to be scared about.”

The project has already spread further than expected, with books turning up in other states…some hidden by Sami but others by the young readers who’ve found books and carried them over many miles. Interest in Sami’s project has also spread rapidly. She’s been featured by a number of media outlets, ranging from her local newspaper to ABC News. Sami says she suspects her Sheldon Look 4 a Book efforts might be of interest to colleges and scholarship committees, as well. But her impetus, she says, was really about making reading fun and accessible for kids all over town.

“I have heard from multiple parents and teachers that they love the project,” Sami shares. “Granted the parents are not finding the books and reading them, but they get to see the excitement on their faces when they first find the book and then want to take a picture with it.” You, too, can see those smiling faces by going to Sami’s group page on Facebook.

The same care and planning that go into Sami’s book project are also driving her future plans. She intends to earn a liberal arts degree and then study veterinary science. She hopes to have a large animal practice one day and to maintain a cow herd. She intends to raise and sell show calves. She’s already active with 4-H, FFA, softball, basketball and showing animals. Fortunately for hundreds of children—initially in Iowa but now spread over the country— Sami’s also taken the time to craft a fun and literacy-enriching way for them to get outside, seek, find, and read. The next round of books is already in hand getting the Sami Noteboom treatment. Soon, those books may be heading to a hiding place near you.

Sami credits other book finding projects that she saw online with giving her the idea to try it. Specifically, she cites the East Yorkshire Look 4 a Book program. She recommends others consider joining their ranks. Learn more on Amanda’s Facebook page: