When Sami Noteboom shared with her stepmother, Amanda, that she was looking to make a difference in her community, Amanda shared with the teenager a Facebook post she'd seen recently about a book-hiding program.
After quite a bit of effort, Sami, 17, of Sheldon, Iowa, started Sheldon Look 4 a Book.
The idea came about Sept. 1, when Amanda saw on social media a post about towns in other countries hiding books for children, to incorporate adventure and reading, particularly the East Yorkshire Look 4 a Book.
Sami, a senior at Sheldon High School, and Amanda thought the gesture was something that could be implemented in their own town.
Sami had been looking to take up a community service project for her 4-H club that also encouraged reading for the youth in their town. Though her busy high school schedule made finding time to read difficult these days, she and her siblings enjoyed the pastime as children, her stepmother said.
Amanda told ABC News on Tuesday that Sami is active in her local Western Workers 4-H club, but also O'Brien County Youth 4-H council. The council, she said, expected students to participate in community service. Sami had also applied for the National Honor Society, which takes into consideration leadership and service as well as grades.
"I thought this would be a perfect way for Sami to start her community engagement," Amanda told ABC News. "Reading was hard for her at first, so for us to see the process get easier for her was a relief. If putting books in the hands of children makes reading easier for them .... then why not help them succeed."
Amanda, a school teacher, was able to get books from her classroom. Meanwhile, Sami also applied for a grant at their church in order to buy more books.
Luckily, Sami won the grant and they were able to buy books and supplies. People also began to donate books.
"My stepmom really helped me with this and thought it would be great for our small town," she said. "We hoped for it to take off."
By the end of September, the two had begun hiding books all over their small Iowa town.
The books were bagged and included a little note. When children found the books, they also got a letter from Sami that told them that they could either read the book and then rehide it for someone else, or they could keep the book and then hide one of their own.
Families began posting pictures on the Sheldon Community Facebook page of the children finding the books.
"It’s fun to see the kids coming into class excited to tell me they found a book," Amanda told ABC News.
Marshall Cox, 4, found three books in downtown Sheldon and then in Ashton, Iowa. His father, Jed Cox, told ABC News how excited Marshall was to find the books.
"He gave one of the books to a friend to read and they hid it together after. The other books he bagged them and hid them again," Cox said.
"Some books [were found in] neighboring towns and a couple were even found in Texas," Sami told ABC News. "I want it to spread across the U.S."
Other communities have been so inspired by what Sami did that they created their own version of Sheldon Look 4 a book, Amanda said.
"There have been two high schools in our area that have started book finds since Sami started hers," Amanda told ABC News.
The two are hoping that program can continue even as Sami heads off to college next year.