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California Avenue Elementary Welcomes Little Free Library
California Avenue Elementary Principal Kathy Briggs, left, with students Jynessa Lopez, Adalyn Lopez, and Ricardo Silva are delighted to have the opportunity of the Little Free Library on their campus. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

California Avenue Elementary has been part of the Stanislaus Reads project that was created to ensure students are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Through this program California Avenue Elementary Principal Kathy Briggs learned about the Little Free Library movement that promotes literacy by sharing free books.

During the summer on Fridays at Cardozo Middle School students participated in various activities all related to reading, sponsored by Stanislaus Reads.

“Stanislaus Reads is all about getting books in the hands of kids and making sure that by third grade students are all reading at grade level,” said Briggs. “We were able to encourage kids to read, make reading fun and handed out books.

“We are just continuing with making sure kids understand how much fun it is to read.”

A couple of weeks ago the school planted the very first Little Free Library on school grounds to encourage reading among the students. The students are allowed to take a book home, read it, bring it back, replace it, or keep it.

Stanislaus Reads provides the books for the Little Library. The National Guard built the little library for California Avenue with the help of a Boy Scout troop from Modesto and they delivered it to the school.

“My husband actually painted it for us in our school colors,” added Briggs. “The custodians here were nice enough to put it up for us.”

The first week that the little library was open for business Briggs would check every day to see if the books needed to be replenished. She expressed having to add books three times during that week because kids were looking in the box every day after school finding books they wanted to take home.

“The whole point is that they get to take the books home and read,” stated Briggs. “They can bring them back, they can keep them, they can give them to a friend, and it is all about getting books in the hands of kids to get them to read.”

The box is available for all students before and after school and book donations are accepted at the school and can be dropped off at the office.

“It is really great that we are working with the Stanislaus Reads because they are donating the books,” explained Briggs of making sure there are plenty to stock the shelves. “So I will be picking up six boxes of books the second week in September. We are really lucky because we are one of the pilot schools.”

California Avenue Elementary also participates in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library which is also part of the Stanislaus Reads project. Students can sign up and they will receive a specific book each month delivered to their homes. The vision that Ms. Parton had was to encourage the love of reading in the youth and insure that every child would have a book, regardless of their family’s income. According to Briggs, Jackie Withrow is piloting the Imagination Library for the school and getting books in the hands of kids from birth to age five. There are approximately 40 children that have signed up for the Imagination library, which has no cost.

The Riverbank Rotary Club is also interested in participating in the Little Free Library movement and has plans to have one constructed and place it near the Teen Center, according to Riverbank Rotary President Albert Veldstra.

For a number of years the Riverbank Rotary has given large bound dictionaries to third graders in the Riverbank Unified School District and now they are thinking about doing the Little Free Library instead of the dictionaries.

“We didn’t think we were getting our bang for our buck with the dictionaries,” said Veldstra. “Placing these little libraries, I describe them as overgrown bird houses; they get a book, read it and return or replace it.”

With the idea that the boxes will give the community more opportunities for reading, Veldstra explained that the goal is to have them all over Riverbank.

“We are still working out the details with the city; however, the goal is to have it set up probably by October,” added Veldstra. “There will be a dedication ceremony when we do get it running.”