An ambitious initiative to encourage literacy and build community has come to fruition with the launch of Little Free Libraries, a free book exchange program taking place in locations across the city. The five wooden mini-library structures were built, painted and installed by construction and art students at Newark Leadership Academy.Collaborating with The United Way of Essex and Hudson, the City of Newark, The Trust for Public Land and community groups, Newark Public Schools launched the Little Free Libraries at Jesse Allen Park on National Summer Learning Day in June to encourage students to continue reading, even when schools are out.
“A lot of children have no books at home, so this will make a big difference,” said Louise A.Spencer School third grade literacy teacher Brooklyn Holt, as her students clamored to read the titles of the books on display in the park. One boy said he liked to read about dinosaurs, and also snails, worms and slugs. A girl said she liked princess, science and social studies books. Other students offered up their favorites: mystery, adventure, fantasy, scary, funny. The ribbon-cutting event additionally attracted members of the surrounding community who shared the children’s enthusiasm for the Little Free Libraries program. One passerby, Kenneth Gaskins – enjoying his day off from his job with Clean & Green – took it upon himself to sweep the area around the new library structure and point out that he loves to read, especially love stories with happy endings.
Literacy is critical to academic and life success. It is a fact that one in six children who are not reading proficiently by third grade will not graduate from high school on time – a rate which is four times higher than that of proficient reader. (Annie E. Casey Foundation).
Little Free Libraries have been built in countries throughout the world as a resource designed to increase literacy and instill a love of reading in children, families and the surrounding community. The Newark Little Free Libraries, which were funded by the United Way of Essex and West Hudson, are located at the following community garden, early childhood centers and parks:
- Jesse Allen Park – 41 Avon Avenue
- Early Childhood School West – 26 Speedway Avenue
- Hope Garden – 260 Bergen Street
- River Front Park – Raymond Boulevard/Somme Street
- Sarah Ward Nursery – 27 Jay Street