Miss Heartland Ambassador uses platform to promote reading

Julie Smith/News Tribune Eugene Elementary School sixth grader Anastasia Jones poses next to the Little Free Library outside the Governor's Mansion Wednesday after placing numerous books inside it. The library was nearly empty after the Fourth of July festivities downtown and Jones has taken it upon herself to see that the libraries remain stocked. The books are free for the taking and are a repository for new or used books you may wish to donate.

With the goal of ensuring every child has access to books, a Eugene sixth-grader is on a journey to fill Little Free Libraries with books in every state.

As a part of her Read to Succeed platform, Anastasia Jones, 11, has spent the past three weeks traveling and filling Little Free Libraries with books she's received through book drives. Through her travels, she became inspired by the unique book boxes that allow anyone to take or donate books.

She is now raising money to place a Little Free Library outside her school, Eugene Elementary School. She hopes to raise $500 to build, paint and install a Little Free Library by late summer or early fall. So far, she has raised more than $300.

Anastasia began her Read to Succeed platform about two years ago and has put in a lot of heart, effort and volunteer hours promoting the importance of reading and ensuring access to books - and she is just getting started. She plans to continue and expand her platform for many years to come.

"I started this platform because I've always loved reading," Anastasia said. "It's been part of my life ever since I was a very little girl. My mom used to read to me every single night when I was a baby, and I really just feel like reading is a part of me now, and I've grown with it."

She hosts book drives about once every few months and uses the books to fill Little Free Libraries across the community and the country. Her last book drive at Eugene Elementary School exceeded her expectations.

"We were expecting maybe 20-30 books, and we got over 1,000," she said.

Anastasia said she loves reading - especially mythology books - because it ignites her imagination. She said she wants all children to have access to books and learn how to read because reading is part of everything.

"You have to know how to read to do the most simple things and daily tasks, so I decided to start expanding into a platform," she said.

Her efforts started with placing a few books into Little Free Libraries in the community, and it quickly blew up into something much bigger.

"I started with the very simple things, and then I've gone into this - I'm really proud of that," she said.

Her platform helped her win the state title Miss Heartland Ambassador through the Princess of America Pageant. She will go to nationals in Branson next weekend to compete against about 30 other girls in her age group for a national title.

Anastasia's mom, Clarissa Stokes, said she's proud of Anastasia for using her passion for reading to make a difference.

"She's been doing pageants since before she could walk, but the pageant for a cause, which is what she's doing now, lets her share her passion - especially for kids who don't have access to books or kids who don't know how to read," Stokes said.

Anastasia reads stories on her YouTube channel, "Anastasia Jones," and sends the videos to schools to share with students. She also promotes reading and shares reading tips on the "Miss Heartland Ambassador-Princess of America" Facebook page.

Through her platform, Anastasia hopes to persuade people to read, inspire the next generation and ensure all children have access to books.

"I learned that one in four kids in our country don't even know how to read and will never learn how to read, which made me really, really sad," she said. "My goal is to bring the numbers from one in four kids to zero. I want everybody to know how to read."

To support Anastasia's efforts to place a Little Free Library outside Eugene Elementary School, donate via PayPal to [email protected] or call 573-825-4552 for an alternative payment option.