What’s one way to encourage students to read, even when school’s out? Plant a Little Free Library in the schoolyard, where kids will have access to it all summer long.
This spring, parent volunteers at Kenny Community School—a K-5 public school in Minneapolis—did just that, installing a Little Free Library in the school’s community garden during a volunteer clean-up event. As they’d hoped, young readers were drawn to it like bees to blossoms.
“On the first Monday after we opened the Library, as buses and cars and bikes pulled up to the front of school before the bell, there was a line of kids waiting for a chance to look in the LFL. A line of kids waiting to leave and take books!” says Kenny parent Kris Woll.
The excitement surrounding the Little Free Library comes at a good time of year: Research shows that children’s reading skills can decline rapidly over the summer months if they don’t have easy access to books. Lower-income kids are especially at risk, typically losing more than two months in reading achievement.
But Kenny’s busy Little Library promises to keep kids reading until the next school year and beyond. Here, Woll shares more about LFL #10153.
Tell us about your Little Free Library. How did the idea for a school-garden LFL come about?
The idea to “plant” an LFL in the Kenny gardens grew out of many informal conversations, and became a reality thanks to the generosity of Little Free Library’s GIFT Fund. Our school is a community school, so most of the kids who attend Kenny live around Kenny. They walk and play around the school before and after the bell, and they fill the park adjacent to the school year round. Some kids in our school community have extra books they can easily share. Some kids in our school community want and need books they can read at home. All Kenny families can benefit from reading and sharing good books.
A parent volunteer wrote a request for a library to the Little Free Library organization. We received a beautiful, custom library to facilitate sharing here in our school community and to literally help us grow readers at Kenny school! We planted our LFL at Garden Day this year.
Garden Day sounds like a fun event! What does it involve, and how did the LFL installation fit into the festivities?
Garden Day is an annual volunteer event for teachers, staff, students, families, and the community. We gather on a spring Saturday—rain or shine—to clean up the gardens around our school. This year we had lots of shine—and over 70 volunteers! We worked (and did a bit of playing) in the morning, and then, to celebrate our cleaned up gardens, had a ribbon-cutting for our newly-planted Library. It was very exciting—and the Library filled almost immediately as the kids ran up to place their books inside!
What kinds of books are in the LFL? Are students excited about any books in particular?
So far, the Kenny LFL features picture books and chapter books for the K-5 set. They are the kinds of books that Kenny students want to read. With many little libraries dotted through the neighborhood, it is especially fun to see this one devoted to good books for kids.
The inventory changes rapidly (and my own kid spends time each night considering which of the books on his shelf he is done with so that he can do a swap the next day). It appears to be a big hit, and I anticipate that will continue.
What advice do you have for other schools that want to install a Little Free Library?
Do it! Little Free Libraries are a great addition to a school environment; both schools and Little Free Library are about cultivating community, sharing, and learning. We hope to “grow” more LFLs in our garden in the coming years!