Build community, spread literacy

By Brett Milam

A new little free library is now at Merwin Elementary School thanks to the 64 students, grades 1 through 5, from the school’s Kindness Club.

The opening ceremony was held on May 9 at the elementary school, located at 1040 Gaskins Road. Despite the rain, the kids and teachers were enthusiastic about the new library.

Little Free Library is a non-profit organization to increase the access to books and spread literacy throughout communities. The new one at Merwin is part of the network, registered as Charter #65202.

The charter sign costs $40 and adds the Little Free Library to the world map of other little free libraries, which counts about 65,000 libraries in its network.

For those not familiar, little free libraries essentially look like oversized birdhouses, holding about 40 books, give or take the dimensions of the structure. In the case of this library, there’s also a little spot on the right-hand side for flowers.

The little free library was built by Dr. Gary Brooks, the former superintendent of West Clermont Local Schools prior to Dr. Keith Kline, whose granddaughter Stella goes to the school.

Written in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the little free library were things like, “Happy birthday little free library!”; “Choose kindness,”; and, “Spread kindness everywhere.”

Lisa Burke, Kindness Club advisor and who helped to initiate the little free library at Merwin, said books were collected all year.

“We’re hoping to have something for everybody,” she said. “We hope to spread the love of literacy and outreach to the community.”

Burke said literacy is important because it changes lives, “especially in this district.”

After the children from the club gathered and drank their lemonade, Burke talked to them about their achievement and how the library works.

“You guys remember when we talked about this at the beginning of the year and we were just brainstorming ideas about how we could spread kindness and the love of reading?” Burke said. “And look what happened, we did it!”

The kids, sitting criss-cross applesauce listening, responded, “Yeah!”

Burke said the way it works is that anyone, including teenagers and adults and anyone else in the community, can choose one book at a time. The nearby benches allow for book browsing before making a selection.

“So when you choose a book you want to take home, it may turn out to be your favorite book you’ve ever read,” Burke said. “And in that case, you don’t want to bring it back, you want to keep it and that’s okay.”

That’s the difference between the little free library and a public library, where you have to return the book. But it’s an honor system: If you keep a book, maybe you should bring a book you don’t want anymore from home to share with the little free library.

One little boy noted that he’d probably bring back a book because he has about 624 books in his room, he estimated.