Instilling love for reading

Kelli Gathers reads to her daughter Emma, 1 1/2, in a preschool classroom at Central High School in Woodstock after attending the opening of the school's Little Free Library. Josette Keelor/Daily

WOODSTOCK — Thursday, at the opening of the Little Free Library at Central High School in Woodstock, preschool students crowded around an old newspaper dispenser-turned-book receptacle in a grass yard behind the classroom.

Part of an effort led by high school students in the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapter, the Little Free Library invites students to take a book or leave a book in an effort to promote literacy.

Thursday’s library opening preceded a pizza party to celebrate students’ reading achievement, though classroom aide Carly Bokanyi said reading has been a bit of a challenge this school year.

“Library is definitely not a big pick,” said Bokanyi, a 19-year-old senior in the school’s childcare program that will move to Triplett Tech next year.

Some children even thought of reading as a punishment, until she and Courtney Copp, 17, discussed how to make it into a game.

Easton Hamilton, 4, selects a book from the Little Free Library for preschool students on Thursday at Central High School in Woodstock. The library, made from a sanded-down newspaper dispenser, is available to preschoolers during the school's program hours. Josette Keelor/Daily

It’s not that the children don’t like reading, said preschool teacher Raelyn Hamilton, whose twin boys attend the class. It’s just that they’d rather do something else.

Library time rotates with other activities like music and dance, housekeeping, dramatic and imaginative play, language, community and business, circle time and snack time, the girls said.

And now, through the FCCLA’s Focus on the Children: Literacy For the Little Ones program, reading has become more integrated into the school day and a little more fun for hesitant readers who might have seen it as work, Courtney said.

The Little Free Library is one of various community libraries that have popped up in neighborhoods and schools around the country, said Hamilton, who knows of another built into a wooden box and located down the street from where she lives in Stephens City.

“It’s a cool concept,” she said. “It gives kids more opportunities [to read].”

She said public libraries aren’t always an option for children without transportation to get there, but neighborhood Little Free Libraries provide an easy way they can trade used books for ones they haven’t read yet.

In that way, she said, “The Little Free Library is way more beneficial to them.”

The Little Free Library is the fourth in a series of projects the FCCLA students organized for a presentation they’ll give at the state conference in Virginia Beach April 17-19.

The students helped provide discounts to parents who order books through the Scholastic Reading Club and those who order copies of Scholastic’s “My Big World” magazine for preschool age readers. They also provided parents with reading logs for recording their children’s reading habits.

It’s been an “awesome” experience for the children, said Amy Myers of Edinburg, who attended Thursday’s library opening with her son Benjamin, 5.

Kelli Gathers of Maurertown agreed, encouraging her children, 3½-year-old Leo and 1½-year-old Emma, to choose books from the Little Free Library.

“I think it’s fantastic, because our kids love to read,” she said. “He can’t get enough of them.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com