Fight summer learning loss with a trip to your local free little library
Reading--is any skill more foundational to success in today’s world? Pursuing higher education, understanding the instructions for a job application, reading work emails, becoming an informed citizen, or navigating the constant streams of data from the internet are all tasks that students in classrooms today will need effective reading skills to tackle in the near future. Aside from its clear utilitarian advantages, however, reading can help a child’s social-emotional development in profound ways. Good fiction can help a reader to build empathy for others and to process the emotions, fears, and joys they have experienced in life. Good non-fiction can empower kids to independently learn about whatever they want to, even when they are not in class. Moreover, the process of reading can be a quiet, healing retreat for a child who feels overwhelmed by life’s challenges.
However, despite all these benefits, the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book is often lost in today’s busy, stressful world. Current trends in schools focus more on test preparation than on independent reading, and outside of school, the twenty-first-century barrage of video games, television, smart phones, and social media frequently make reading for entertainment seem like a chore. As educators, parents, and guardians, however, we need to realize how valuable reading is for our kids, how endangered it is today, and how we can help the children we love by encouraging them to read. We must become the gentle, persistent voices inviting them to put down the gadgets for just a moment, and step open-eyed into the magical land between the covers of a book.
We must strive to carve out peaceful corners of the world where children feel supported, loved, and safe enough to focus on reading. As our children grow as readers, not only will they develop valuable academic and career skills, but they will take their places as explorers of a larger world.
Of course, for children to become good readers, they need a steady supply of good books. Strong school library programs are an excellent place to start. New Orleans also has wonderful public libraries such as the East New Orleans Regional Library on 5641 Read Boulevard. You can see their catalog, locations, and calendar of free, educational events on the Library's website or by clicking here.
Unfortunately, for some children, challenges such as a lack of transportation or an invested adult at home can make even accessing the public library difficult. However, there is a special way that a supply of books can come to reach every neighborhood in New Orleans, and I’d like to draw your attention to that today. It’s called Little Free Libraries. This is a registered non-profit organization that has fostered the growth of a worldwide network of miniature book exchanges, usually in the form of a box mounted on a post like a mailbox. These libraries can be found anywhere: in a front yard, outside a school, by a local post office or community center, or in a park - find one near you today.
Described by the organization’s website as “mini-town squares,” these grassroots libraries run on a “leave a book, take a book” honor system. You don’t even need a library card; you can borrow a book to read with no strings attached and return it later or replace it with a different book. Additionally, since anyone can stock the library with anything they choose, these libraries can be a great way to recommend a favorite book to others. They are truly a community-run resource!
This spring, STAND for Children Louisiana helped to build and stock two brand-new Little Free Libraries in New Orleans East. One is at Schaumburg Elementary on 9501 Grant Street, and one is in Joe Brown Park by the playground. Parents who live nearby, why not take your kids by this summer to check them out? Teachers in the area, let your students know about these new locations and encourage them to stop by. For those who want to help, local thrift stores, yard sales, and library book sales are great places to find affordably-priced books to share with these libraries. Even better, you can build a little free library of your own, anywhere--see more information here.
Just imagine a New Orleans with a Little Free Library on every street corner!