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JMCSS teacher wins grant for “Free Little Library” for community


Van Hook class JACKSON, Tenn. – A group of third graders at Community Montessori School has a big job ahead of them.  After a lesson on overcoming learning challenges around the world, they decided to help put books in kids’ hands right here at home by building a brand-new children’s library for the Jackson community.  It means a lot of work, including deciding on a location, erecting the structure, filling it with books, and upkeep. Luckily this library is a Little Free Library, which is about the size of a large mail box, and will not cost the class a dime thanks to a grant through the Impact Library Program.


“The fact that this idea was mostly student led and curriculum driven with an emphasis and goal of increasing literacy in the community was ideal,” explained lower elementary teacher Rachel Van Hook of applying for the grant.  She said her students have already put in a lot of hard work.  “I used their responses in applying for the grant,” she recalled.  “They have brainstormed, used team work and graphic organizers to come up with plans.”


Little Free Library is a nonprofit with the goal of increasing literacy rates through access to books and forging community connections by establishing book exchanges.  Hosts, like Mrs. Van Hook’s class, establish the libraries and stock them. Visitors can then take the free books or donate books by leaving them in the library 24/7.


“As an educator and parent, the evidence is clear that higher readers are almost always the students whose parents have been reading to them since birth,” Van Hook stated.  “Those children are surrounded by books at home, get books for presents, go to the library and read them in a safe, loving environment.”  Van Hook said she tries to recreate that kind of environment in her classroom and hopes their library can help other families establish the same kind of routine at home.


Van Hook, whose classroom consists of first, second and third grades, said her third graders are still deciding on a location for their library.  “We want it to be in a safe location within walking distance from a community of young kids,” she explained.  “We also want it to be close to our school to increase engagement from school staff, students and families.”


The components to construct the library are expected to arrive in December.  Van Hook said they would love to have it up by Christmas.  Without the grant, establishing a Little Free Library is estimated to cost about $500.  Van Hook said students have already begun fundraising to help with the costs of upkeep and buying new books.  The students hope to host community events at their library location when it is set up.