Announcing Impact Library Recipients, May 2021

By Lexie Neeley

Congratulations to this month’s Impact Library recipients, and welcome to the Little Free Library family!

Little Free Library’s Impact Library Program provides no-cost Little Free Library book exchanges to underserved communities where they can make a meaningful impact on book access and reading motivation.

Amanda LeClaire-Diaz | Wind River Reservation | Fort Washakie, WY 

This little library will be located on the Wind River Reservation, so the people who will be using it are Indigenous youth and their families. Reading is one of the first opportunities people have to be introduced to new worlds, but it’s also a space where individuals can view and connect with characters who are similar to them. Specifically for children, being able to see their own reflections in characters can be integral to their development and a boost to their self-confidence (Bishop, 1990; Rodriguez, 2018). Young readers recognizing themselves in stories can engage their interests in reading materials and improve overall learning. Despite all of the positive impacts reading can have on children, there is a major lack of authentic representation of characters from underrepresented groups in children’s literature in the United States. The majority of literature Indigenous youth and their families are reading feature characters who do not represent them. Our youth deserve to read books where they can connect with characters who look like them and recognize their lived experiences in the stories. A Little Free Library could offer this opportunity to them.

Chrissy Amerson | Bloomington Independent School District | Bloomington, TX 

Bloomington, TX is a little community with a population just under 2,000. With 4 schools, 2 have a library being utilized. In 2018-2019, 50% of the student population was considered at-risk, around 20% bi-lingual, 85% Hispanic, and 78.8% economically disadvantaged. As the middle school counselor, I have seen a huge need for literacy at all ages. With a little over 200 sixth-eighth grade students, only 15 are at or close to grade level in reading. I am trying to create a community engagement plan for the 2021-2022 school year with a huge focus on literacy at home. My goal is to place library boxes at both elementary campuses and one in front of the middle/high school.

Christina Gilchrist | Palm Bay Academy Charter School | Palm Bay, FL 

The Little Free Library will be used by the students and the surrounding community in Palm Bay. We are a 100% free and reduced lunch population. Our students express a desire to read, but a lack of opportunity to interact with books outside of the school day. Our school is located on a highly traveled road and is easily accessible to community members. By adding the Little Free Library to the school grounds we can impact the kids within walking distance of our school. There are a large number of students in our immediate vicinity, many who do not attend PBA, that would benefit greatly by having the library and we know that time on text will improve fluency and comprehension, an area where we see the greatest need in our students’ education. All of our teachers have expressed the ability to share books with the Little Free Library. Also, as a Title 1 School, we have the ability to share books with students regularly allowing us to stock the Little Free Library.

Donte Libran | Portfolio Resident Services | Fort Worth, TX 

The community of Stallion Pointe is a tax-credit housing community. I am the Resident Services Coordinator here and I orchestrate and run all the resident events as well as offer assistance to the residents for whatever their needs may be. As you can imagine, as a tax-credit housing community, the needs vary and are many at times. I have an after-school program that I run daily and to be able to have books for the children to read and share amongst their peers would be phenomenal. As a non-profit, we work primarily through donations and we have had books and supplies donated to us in the past, but haven’t had anywhere to place them all. I feel that by being able to partner with you, we can make a real statement in the community.

Gabrielle Nichols | Saginaw, MI 

I live less than a block away from the city public school. It is across the street from me. I have a large corner lot and kids walk past my house to walk to school and to go anywhere for lunch. The majority of students at the school are minorities and from low income families. I also have several other schools by me. I have wanted to do this for some time. My husband is a disabled veteran who was shot in his spine in combat. I was in a serious accident and just had my 6th spinal surgery. if I had the funds I would buy one for us. I am a secretary at a Church and help with poverty in my city. I will be going to PT soon so I will be able to maintain the library. I also have friends to help. This is a dream of mine to be able to share with the young people I see going past my home every day. I grew up in this neighborhood also and it would bring me so much joy. My husband is part of Operation paperback and we get books sent to us every month. He runs the bookstore and library at our church. We currently have about 300 books we have saved for my dream of having one of these for the kids I see walking past my home. It would honestly be a huge joy.

Joanna Barnes | Bowling Green, KY

This neighborhood is a very diverse low to middle income neighborhood. About half of the homes are small, single family ranch homes and half are rental duplexes and apartments. This neighborhood is home to many different races and ethnicities including many first generation immigrants and refugees. There are many children in the neighborhood who play outside. Many of the children and families don’t have reliable transportation. Public transportation is virtually nonexistent and the closest library branch is not within walking distance. I am a former elementary school teacher and my mother who lives next door is a retired librarian. We are avid readers and always have many extra books to share. My home is centrally located within the neighborhood so there is a lot of foot and vehicle traffic that passes by. A free little library would be a great service to the community. My mother, children, and I are avid readers so have a constant flow of books. Our local library hosts two annual book sales of used books where we can purchase bags of books very cheaply if needed. Additionally, being friends with many educators, parents, and readers, I have many individuals who would be happy to donate books as well. I don’t have any concern that we’ll be unable to keep our little library stocked with quality books for the community.

Karen DeMarco | Oak Senior Living | Marietta, GA 

We are a senior living community focused on intergenerational learning. We are looking to outfit our library with large print books and children’s books. Our large print will be for our seniors to have the opportunity to continue their love of reading and be able to have a book club to promote socialization with one another. Second, we will outfit with children’s books as we have two daycares close to us. We want to invite the day care small groups in and have them pick out a book for a senior to read to them and then keep the book. Many of our caregivers have young children or grandchildren and we want to support our staff giving them the opportunity to have immediate access to take home books to their family to promote literacy and reading. It is a great opportunity to join forces with our libraries and schools to promote how important our senior population is and not to be forgotten, intergenerational bonding and community partnerships, united. We will maintain the flow of books with community partnerships and events promoting bringing a children’s book when you visit your loved one and we will put a sticker on the inside with their parent’s name on it. At Christmas we will do a book drive. When school gets out for summer we will do a summer reading book drive. On grandparents day we will do an intergenerational book drive. We will do an “in honor of your mom or dad, please donate a large print book to a resident and again, we will do a beautiful inscribed sticker, ” donated in honor of….” With the money saved with this grant, we can outfit the library to kick it off and do an event to promote literacy and invite the library to come with their bookmobile also. It is about being part of the community and giving back to share the power of reading for young and old. Reading brings joy at all ages. We want our seniors to not be forgotten, to feel part of the community and to be celebrated. uniting young and old is important through reading…our past and present bonds.

Lauren Glaze | Bessie Weller Elementary School | Staunton, VA 

The Little Free Library will be specific to the elementary school students at Bessie Weller Elementary. It will be a fixture in the garden that exists in the center of the school and will be full of garden-related books. I want the books to also have diverse characters so that the impressionable students will be exposed to stories from many different perspectives. 75% of students qualify for free/reduced lunch and there is a great deal of diversity within the school. However, almost all of the teachers are white and I have noticed that the stories that students are exposed to often reflect this and I would like the children to be able to see themselves in the books they read. It will also get them thinking about the value of a garden. The kids will have the opportunity to pick out their own books and to read them together in the garden. The garden is staffed by a full time garden coordinator who will be able to apply for funding to keep a flow of books coming through – there is also great interest from the community, and I know that they would likely be willing to donate books for kids. The garden coordinator holds regular classes in the garden to support their education and give them opportunities to connect with plants.

Lori Ashmore | Oro-Medonte, Ontario  

I live in a rural community. There are Little Free Libraries for adults in Barrie (a nearby city) but nothing specifically for kids. We don’t have a library – the nearest one for our community is 9.2 miles away in another city and located in a downtown area (that is known for being unsafe and unfortunately has had vandalism and drug use nearby and at its site). I am a teacher and cannot stress the importance of reading and would love that the children in my community can have access to a free library (we have many children in my neighborhood). I would love for this one to be for children/teens or adults that are trying to improve reading skills and to keep it stocked with books aimed at them. I cannot stress the value of reading enough. We also have a French school nearby and would love to stock it with French books as well (which are very expensive to buy). I would supply lots of books (I have lots as both a teacher and a parent) and would post online on Facebook and elsewhere to ask for donations. I would ask neighbours and friends. I have already found many people willing to donate and it could be fully stocked asap, just no one that can build the box. I would ask colleagues as well as we all know the value of reading (and many change up their stock regularly). I would ask school librarians as well when they clean out their shelves to donate those books.

Madison Werschem | Sun Prairie Community Schools | Sun Prairie, WI 

With a Little Free Library we would be able to bring diverse and bilingual books to the families of the most diverse elementary school in Sun Prairie, over half of which are living below the poverty line and a quarter of which are transient, not staying in our school for more than a year. Many of our families are also not able to get to our public library due to transportation or limiting work hours. A little free library would open a new avenue of reading resources to our families 24/7. We would like to partner with our local library and community school partners to collect new and used books to keep our little free library stocked year round, as well as LFL and other local resources to provide literacy activities and advice to families that may not be willing to ask for help.

Miranda Crites | Sutton, WV

The Poplar Ridge/Centralia community is in a rural area where farming, hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities play an important role in most of our lives. The area where I dream my LFL will go is about twelve miles from “town” – where our local public library is located. I believe the Poplar Ridge/Centralia area would greatly benefit from their very own LFL in many different ways. It would be easier for some to access than going “all the way to town” to get books, and it would definitely be convenient for stopping in during “unusual” hours when a library might normally be closed such as before or after work or on weekends. In an area where we don’t have many activities, not only for children but for everyone, having an LFL would greatly impact the community. I think having our very own LFL would cause more people to pick up a book, encourage reading, IMPROVE reading skills, and/or help with learning/teaching to read. I feel this would bring the community together more. We really need this in our area especially during these uncertain times.

Paula Quinn | Orange Glen High School | Escondido, CA 

Orange Glen High School is a public Title I high school currently serving students from underserved and lower income communities in the Far East end of Escondido, California. Orange Glen invests good deeds on campus and in community with the resources needed to provide our students with exceptional opportunities for personal development. Our school has worked on achieving success for our non-English speaking students and families. The students of Orange Glen High School also take great pride representing their high school while participating in volunteer opportunities in the community. Orange Glen currently holds afterschool programs that help involve our students both in and outside of schools. Activities such as garden club, LGBTQ club, photography and kindness rocks painting have all provided an opportunity for our students to become involved and spread the knowledge into their communities. Giving students and families a safe space to learn and get involved has led a path to bettering our community making it a flourishing and livable environment. The LFL will be located at the front of the school next to a highly used walking path on the way to a small park.

Scott Hartman | Hamilton Elementary/Middle School | Baltimore, MD 

Our community is centered around school. The school is a Title 1 school, and part of the Baltimore City Public School System. We offer substantial outdoor learning spaces, and have partnered with local non-profit Parks and People Foundation to further enhance our schoolyard in order to transform it into a park space and to encourage use by the larger community. The Free Little Library will be part of that enhanced space and will help to encourage use of the park and school grounds. Our goal is to ensure that YA and children’s books are always available in our Free Little Library, while also preserving space for adult literature for the benefit of our larger community. With over 800 students enrolled, we have no shortage of potential customers with an appetite for reading!

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