Many of us carry our own little library with us. It’s called a Nook or a Kindle or one of the other e-readers. Mine’s a Nook. When I open it up sayings appear. One of them is a quote from Cicero, “A room without a book is like a body without a soul.”
Reading books brings whole new worlds to life and sets the stage for future success. Unfortunately, the reading statistics for many kids in Detroit are dismal – 12 percent can’t read and 33 percent don’t read. Only 11 percent are elite readers.
And, unfortunately, many Detroit schools don’t books to fill their libraries.
Alycia Meriweather, the new interim superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, intends to do something about it. She has a plan to bring books in – the Detroit 97 School Project.
The goal is to have a Little Free Library at all 97 DPS schools.
Little Free Libraries are installed in public places where books can be shared based on the Little Free Library motto “Take a book, leave a book.” The idea is to take a book, read a book, leave a book or keep a book.
Meriweather contacted Detroit Little Libraries, a grass roots organization here and a partner with Little Free Libraries, for support. Detroit Little Libraries has placed doll house-size boxes filled with books anyone can take or leave in more than 150 locations in Detroit including homes, small businesses, community gardens or other places in neighborhoods.
Now it is working with DPS to get those little libraries into all 97 schools. It’s never been done before. If it can get done, Detroit will make history.
According to the national Little Free Library organization, no school district has ever attempted this and it could become a another touchstone in the national narrative around Detroit’s turnaround, Detroit Little Libraries says.
“If Detroit can pulls this off, it could become a model for cities across the country,” says Tony Bol, of the Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization based outside the Twin Cities. “We’re excited to help Detroit and see where this could go.”
You can help.
The average cost of a Little Library is $350 (depending on model). Check out the website to see how you can help – donate, start a Crowd Fund, build a Little Library or be a promoter and inspire others through matching-fund phases, community library builds, and other creative ideas you may have.
The need is great. Detroit Little Libraries points to a study by Dr. Susan Neuman, a former University of Michigan professor and literacy expert now at New York University, published a study this month that shows there is just one book for every 42 children in a Detroit neighborhood.
Besides Detroit Little Libraries, the DPS Foundation, many individuals and corporations are on board. Right now there are 27 commitments from a variety of organizations, community members and individuals from around the U.S., including Montana and Alaska, who are investing in Detroit’s children by donating Little Free Libraries to the schools’ campuses.
To help kids keep up with reading during the summer months on the last day of summer school Meriweather issued a reading challenge for all students and families between now and the first day of school. Students are encouraged to read 150 minutes per week and log in the number of minutes read each day. They can register their minutes and monitor their progress on a special Scholastic Reading website designed to perform the tracking and praise success.
Students who meet the challenge goals at the end of the week are awarded success badges.
Working with Detroit Little Libraries and other supporters, Meriweather and DPS plan to make sure the kids have quality books to read. Remember there are already more than 150 little libraries scattered around Detroit, and as Kim Kozlowski, who founded the group, told us a few months ago, the little libraries have “helped renew and encourage interest in reading and helped build community spirit.” (You can read that story by clicking here.)
If Kozlowski, Meriweather and DPS have their way there will be no room without a book and that is good for the souls of every student.