Encouraging Community Reading with a Little Free Library

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Wyoming High School students Kacey Billings, Malik Claybrook and Kristina Frantz sit and read near the Little Free Library
Wyoming High School students Kacey Billings, Malik Claybrook and Kristina Frantz sit and read near the Little Free Library

Tracey Davis-Replogle has big plans for miniature free libraries: scatter them throughout Wyoming to motivate everyone to grab a book and read for enjoyment.

 

“I want to put Wyoming on the national map. I want (the ABC news program) “20/20″ to show up on the doorstep and do a piece on this community that reads,” she said.

 

The 20-year Wyoming High School teacher and her husband, Kevin Replogle, built a Little Free Library, a wooden house-shaped box atop a treated 4×4, and stationed it outside the school’s entrance to the Frontiers Program, for which Davis-Replogle serves as a language arts instructor and mentor.

 

Inside the box are several books, available to students and community members for the taking. If they choose to, they can leave a book in return. “You open up the door, peruse what’s there; if you’d like to leave one, that’s fine. If not, grab and go,” she said.

 

She and her husband plan to build several more for Wyoming school buildings, and inspire others in the community to take part in the initiative. “I want them everywhere, schools, bus stops, businesses, churches, individual communities,” she said.

 

Next to the high school’s little library is a bench where people can sit and read.

 

Part of a District-wide Initiative

 

Davis-Replogle, who lives in Grand Haven, said she’s seen the little libraries in her community. The idea comes from the nonprofit organization, Little Free Library, started in Wisconsin, to build as many little libraries as possible. According to the website, littlefreelibrary.org, 15,000 were in use nationwide by Jan. 2014.

 

“The big picture for us is to make Wyoming a community of readers, not just students, but the entire community. We know that if our kids are watching our parents read, they are more likely to read. We know that reading can help you in so many different ways.

 

The little libraries are part of a bigger reading initiative spanning all Wyoming schools. Students are keeping reading logs, working to reach a weekly goal of minutes spent reading for fun. A district-wide committee is being formed to focus on school and community reading projects.

 

Reading for fun is hard to fit into the packed school day, said Davis-Replogle, who years ago used to give her students time on Fridays to “free read.” Parents are also busy, but by putting reading on the radar, she wants to inspire them to pick up a book.

 

Wyoming Public Schools Superintendent Tom Reeder embraced the idea, saying he sees the need to provide and promote opportunities to capture the love of reading.

 

“Reading, comprehension and discussion of the texts are all skills we need to practice at earlier ages and continue to cultivate as we become older. Other communities have similar programs and so we decided it is our time, our need,” he said.

Teacher Tracey Davis-Replogle is building Little Free Libraries for Wyoming Public Schools
Teacher Tracey Davis-Replogle is building Little Free Libraries for Wyoming Public Schools

 

Since they have all the angles and dimensions figured out, Davis-Replogle and her husband plan to build the book houses for the other school buildings. “I’m willing to put in the time to make the pieces because I feel so strongly about the project. I can’t wait to drive around the district and see them.” she said.

 

Books Galore

 

Senior Malik Claybrook said he’s already motivated to read more, because he gets points toward his final grade for keeping a reading log.

 

“I started reading a book but I stopped reading it when I heard the movie was coming out. Now I will continue to read it.”

 

Juniors Kacey Billings and Kristina Frantz walked by Davis-Replogle on the way to class, their arms stacked with books by Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and modern-day authors. The young book lovers said they will tally the minutes on their reading logs.

 

“It’s a great idea. When you read more, it increases your vocabulary,” Kacey said.

 

Outside, Wyoming resident Al Dolan walked by with his dog, noticing the little library.

 

“My wife, Sue, reads a lot and exchanges books with friends. I will tell her about it,” he said.

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