“This class believes that time spent reading is time well spent,” Jan Hudson, fourth grade teacher for Fairview Elementary School, said.
When asked who reads every day and who has read a book in the past week, every one of her students’ hands shot up.
But not every student has ready access to books. According to Jennifer Cole, media specialist, some families do not have books in their homes, the school library is only open during business hours and when school is in session, the nearest bookstore is 45 minutes away, and nearest public library 30 minutes away.
To help solve this access problem as well as to support their students’ reading habits, Hudson and Cole teamed up to obtain funding and then build, install, and register the Newton County School System’s first two little free libraries. They hope other schools in Newton County will follow suit.
The concept of little free libraries is simple. They make books available all day, every day. Patrons are encouraged to leave a book in return for taking a book.
When asked to shout out reasons they are excited about their little free libraries, Fairview Elementary’s fourth grade students created the following list, “We love reading. We can exchange books. I have no books at home. We can talk about our books. I can bring a book I’m tired of and take a new one. When Mom [who is the art teacher] works late on the kiln I can read.” Cole added that students who live in the neighborhood will be able to walk to the little libraries to get a book.
The project started last fall when Hudson and Cole applied for and received a $900 grant from the Snapping Shoals EMC Bright Ideas program. According to Snapping Shoals’ website, each fall the cooperative “awards grants, allocated from the co-op’s unclaimed capital credit funds, to teachers from the schools that the electric co-op serves in Rockdale, Newton, Henry and DeKalb counties.” Last fall, they awarded $15,000 to support 26 projects, including the little free libraries at Fairview Elementary.
Hudson and Cole used the grant money to purchase two kits from Little Free Library, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the little free library movement, as well as the other needed materials. They assembled the little libraries and painted them in Fairview‘s school colors. The school maintenance department dug holes and installed posts for the libraries to rest on. The libraries were filled with books donated by the Media Center, teachers, families, and students. They were registered with Little Free Library.
The official opening of Fairview Elementary School Little Free Library, Charter #42731 occurred on April 3, 2017. Hudson and Cole said they could not have done it without the support of LaMoyne Brunson, principal, and Yoli Curry, assistant principal.
Cole will monitor the libraries during the school year as well as during the summer and other times when school is not in session to make sure they are filled with appropriate reading material. Amy Weaver, art teacher, plans to decorate the libraries; Hudson and Cole hope to someday place a bench near the libraries as well as hold special events, such as a “media picnic.”
Part of the inspiration for the project was a book, “Biblioburro, a true story from Colombia” by Jeanette Winter, which the class read earlier this year. The book is about a Colombian school teacher, Luis Soriano, who ten years ago carried books by burro to give to students in remote areas. According to Hudson, Cole, the class, and she wanted to emulate his work.