EAST WINDSOR: School district believes ‘Little Free Library’ is a big deal

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Seeking to stem the “summer slide,” which is the loss of some academic skills that happens when students do not read as many books, East Windsor school district officials are setting up a “Little Free Library” box.
The East Windsor Regional School District Board of Education endorsed the plan, which calls for setting up a Little Free Library box at the Grace N. Rogers Elementary School at 380 Stockton Street. It is expected to be in place later this year.
The Little Free Library is a nonprofit group that encourages a love of reading by sponsoring neighborhood book exchanges. The first Little Free Library box, which resembled a one-room schoolhouse, was built in 2009 by Wisconsin resident Todd Bol as a tribute to his mother. She was a teacher and an avid reader.
The idea caught on, and the Little Free Library was incorporated as a nonprofit group in 2012. Today, it makes available Little Free Library kits that resemble a one-room schoolhouse. Little Free Library owners – known as stewards – also can build and decorate their own box.
“That’s a wonderful idea,” school board president Alice Weisman said when the proposal was rolled out at the school board’s Nov. 20 meeting. She said she would like to see Little Free Library boxes placed outside of all the school buildings.
The costs of setting up the Little Free Library would be covered by the East Windsor Education Association’s Pride grant, school district officials said. The grant would cover the cost of buying and installing the Little Free Library box. A steward would check on the box daily.
Children would take a book from the Little Free Library to read, and then return it. If they like the book, they can keep it, but school district officials would encourage them to take a book and return it so that another child may read it.
A notebook will be left in the box so children can comment on the books they have read, and also make suggestions for the types of books they would like to see in the box.
Since many families include two working parents – some of whom hold down more than one job – the Little Free Library will enable them to stop by and pick up a book or return a book at any time of the day or night. The goal is to get books into the hands of community members, school district officials said.
The books, which are strictly children’s and young adult books, would come from teachers’ personal libraries. Parents also can donate books that their children have read and outgrown, making them available to other young readers.
Superintendent of Schools Richard Katz said the district supports the installation of a Little Free Library on school grounds, and added that he hoped it could be expanded to other school buildings.
The Little Free Library is an “excellent resource for our students that gives them access to books when several factors may prevent them from otherwise being able to find new books or old favorites to read,” Katz said.
“We are also thankful for the initiative of Kathleen Fallon, who brought the idea forward and is willing to take responsibility (and serve as the steward) for the first one,” Katz said. Fallon is a basic skills teacher at the Grace N. Rogers Elementary School.
“We are proud to find another small, but hopefully meaningful, way to continue to serve our East Windsor Regional School District Community,” Katz said.