Free Little Libraries project sparks imagination, love for reading, one book at a time
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – While many kids spend their free time in the summer with games of tag or hide-and-go-seek, a few fourth- and fifth-graders, who are surrounded by a web of glue strings, sequins, glitter and letters, prefer books.
“I love reading,” said Mia G. “It takes you on an adventure, and you feel like you’re one of the characters.”
The fourth-grader is one of the book-loving renegades who were working Wednesday with a mosaic of recycled materials to create the Boys and Girls Club of Steamboat Springs’ new Little Free Library.
This library will be one of four new additions to the Bud Werner Memorial Library-sponsored Little Free Library system — called “Little Buddy’s Branches” — a project that started last summer with a mini-structure built by Johnny Walker that was placed in Dream Island.
This summer, those little branches will be expanding to other areas including the Boys and Girls Club, Integrated Community and Soda Creek Elementary School.
“Really, what I want is to get as many books as possible into as many readers’ hands as possible, especially those kids who may not have a lot of books in their home to begin with,” said Sarah Kostin, youth services librarian at the Steamboat library
Integrated Community, of Communidad Integrada, has finished their library that will soon be registered — located in the entry way of 443 non profit center that shares the building with Routt County United Way — and it’s now up and running with a variety of bilingual books primarily in Spanish as well as a quote Yenira Gallegos painted on to it: “Accustom your child to read, a child who reads will be an adult who thinks.”
By the end of this week, the Boys and Girls Club plans to add the finishing touches to theirs.
But no library would be complete without books.
As incentives to this summer’s new reading program, “Read it Forward,” young readers will be rewarded in the form of giving books to the Little Buddy’s Branches project.
Kids age birth to 18 can earn points by reading, attending library events, writing book reviews in Beanstack, an online reading tracker, or by collecting secret codes from the library and nine other local businesses in the Hot Spot scavenger hunt.
The community goal is to reach one million points by July 31. The more kids read, the more they can help those in need, Kostin said.
“I wanted to promote reading as its own reward,” Kostin said. “I also wanted to show reading as a way to help others and to feel good about reading together as a community and that connection reading can inspire.”
Once a book is added to a Little Free Library, it’s hard to know where it will end up — as someone’s prized possession or maybe passed on from reader to reader.
But that’s part of the fun.
“I love this concept because you don’t have to check it out, there are no fines and you can keep it or give it away — it feels very liberating,” Kostin said. “It’s a totally open, free, sharing philosophy.”
“Reading and exchanging the love of reading in this way builds community,” said Danielle Skov, a fifth grade teacher at Soda Creek elementary who is working with school librarian Libby Creamer to create a Little Free Library at the school this fall.
“This is an easier way to get books to people who would appreciate them, who need them,” she explained. “Here are books, and if those get into the hands of someone who wants to read it, that’s the goal.”
The Little Free Libraries-themed summer program arrives on the heels of a very successful winter reading program, which saw local readers logging a total of 278,912 minutes of reading in one month.
“It’s our biggest program (summer reading) we do all year, and it’s because the schools are closed, and so we take on the responsibility of keeping kids engaged with reading over the summer to prevent summer slide and to have fun with reading,” Kostin said.
“This project is a great way to encourage the kids to read more and broaden their horizons,” added Colleen O’Gorman, Boys and Girls Club director of development, who worked with Kostin to create the DIY Little Free Library at the Boys and Girls Club.
As of November 2016, there were more than 50,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries around the world.
In Steamboat, there are now nine little libraries scattered throughout town.
Throughout the summer, the library will collect books in a big bin near the children’s section, and those donated books will be distributed to each of the “Little Buddy’s Branches” locations.
“I really do feel that reading is a way to connect with each other,” Kostin said. “One way is reading the same book and talking about it, but another way is this reading-forward concept — meaning, I really enjoyed this, and I will pass it on and share it with someone else.”
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