York Elementary project gives books to the community
by Guy Thompson
At a Family Reading Night held at York Elementary School last month, parents and students came in bearing books. Lots of books. In one case, scouts from Pack 770, Den 8, carried in boxes of books – 120 in all.
The books donated were used to establish a series of Lending Libraries around the community, many of which were set in place toward the end of March.
The libraries are small structures that hold books for kids and adults. Those who come across them are encouraged to take a book to read and return it, or trade it for a book that they bring and leave for the next person.
York 1st grade teacher Kathie Kenworthy had seen a photo of a lending library online, but had not seen it done as a school project. “I wanted to encourage the kids that we value reading and literacy, as well as do something for the community,” Kenworthy said. She found the photo in December and brought the idea to the school when classes resumed in January.
Principal Yvonne Buller said that they set up a planning committee and presented the idea to the teachers, who quickly jumped on board.
Lisa Vogt, a school designer with EL Education, works at the school and was eager to see what the libraries would look like and “what role can this play with the younger students.” The teachers turned the planning over to their students, who worked to figure out what the libraries would look like. “They listed what they needed for it,” Kenworthy added. “If it was going to be outside, it would need a roof, for example.”
The students brainstormed what they wanted to see as part of the libraries and sent those lists to an engineer at Lippert Components. “He worked on it for eight hours at home from that list of needs and brought the design to school to show the students,” Kenworthy said. “He showed them the design process. He asked them if they wanted any changes made.”
From there, the plans were finalized and Lippert Components worked to build the libraries. The company shared a video with the school showing them being built, as well as bringing one to the school to build on site, allowing the students to watch firsthand. “Lippert went above and beyond what we were asking for,” Buller said. The school had only initially asked for some wood.
“They (students) had three full charts of suggestions,” Vogt said. “There was a real depth of thinking, like putting adult books higher up and making sure kids’ books were lower to access.”
EL Education instructional guide Megan Coryell pointed out the students had the idea of putting some of the libraries inside at various locations, creating crates for waiting rooms. “They generated ideas of where they were bored,” Kenworthy added. “This is a project that is real to them.”
“Some have homework to do when they are at those places,” Vogt said. “They designed some to look like a desk.”
As the finishing touches were put on the libraries, shingles and paint, York custodian Tracie Hoogenboom helped by using her truck to carry the libraries to the various locations around the district. (See sidebar for locations.)
Soon, the students can look around the community with pride in what they have created and how they have helped so many others. The first grade class built more than needed and gifted one to a first grade team at Chamberlain Elementary in Goshen.
But really, they have learned an amazing lesson – several actually. They have worked together. Created ideas. Saw those ideas take shape and get made into something real. And get to see others benefit from their work. “York has spent a lot of time to build a culture of including every adult and every kid,” Vogt commented. “Every adult in the school is a teacher. They are all responsible in the building.” This attitude builds relationships with the students, who see that everyone there is “rooting for them to succeed.”
Students are becoming “active citizens,” Vogt continued. “This isn’t an act of charity. But they are responding to make the community what they want it to be. It’s not us or them. Just us.”
Now that the libraries are out “in the wild,” so to speak, a committee will keep track of them to see if they need upkeep or add books, when needed. “The outdoor ones have a small insert that has contact information for maintenance,” Coryell pointed out. “The plaques say to take one now. Leave one later. I’m interested to see if they bring books. Will there be a flow of books?”
“You look at the scout troop that brought the books in,” Vogt said. “You can see that the community is hungry for ideas like this.”
“Kids are still bringing books in,” Coryell said.
And soon, those books will be out there for others to read and share.
York Lending Libraries locations
Dr. Yoder’s Dentist Office (indoor library) – Mrs. Miller’s Class
Monteith Tire and Auto (indoor library) – Mrs. Nay’s Class
Hoosier Tae Kwon Do (indoor library) – Mrs. Sheridan’s Class
Doctor Barkow’s Office (indoor library) – Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Lewton’s Class
Care ATC Clinic (indoor library) – Mrs. Oyer and Ms. Bell’s Class
Cinnamon Stick-Downtown Middlebury (outdoor library) – Mrs. Kenworthy’s Class
Northridge High School (outdoor library) – Mrs. Kenworthy’s Class
York Elementary (outdoor library) – Mrs. Romero’s Class
Eby Pines Campground – laundry room (indoor library) – Mrs. Romero’s Class
Forks County Line Store (indoor library) – Mrs. Bromley’s Class
Riverbend Park (outdoor library) – Mrs. Ritchie’s Class
Middlebury Animal Clinic (indoor library) – Ms. Huy’s Class
Middlebury Community Schools Administration Center (outdoor library) – Mrs. Blotkamp’s Class