TORONTO — Students at Associated Hebrew Schools’ Danilack Middle School are the first in the Greater Toronto Area to take part in the Little Free Library project, which promotes literacy with its “take a book, leave a book” policy.
An initiative that began in 2009, the goal of the Wisconsin-based non-profit is to build small outdoor community libraries – about the size of large birdhouses – to be placed in neighbourhoods and for community organizations.
As part of a Literacy Week project, held annually from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1, students at Danilack in grades 6 to 8 built 17 library boxes using wood, nails, hammers and glue.
The 17 boxes will be placed at each of the four Associated branches, as well as at two fire stations in Vaughan, at Chai Lifeline, Zareinu, DANI Toronto, B’nai Brith centres, daycares, food banks and nursing homes.
This year, the school’s Literacy Week activity was themed “For the Love of Reading,” and Nadine Sheinberg, Danilack’s teacher librarian, felt that building community libraries fit the theme perfectly.
“Normally, every year for Literacy Week, we do something – a big idea… Our principal, Brenda Dzaldov, actually saw an article about [Little Free Library], which she showed me in September,” Sheinberg said.
“When it came time to do Literacy Week, it was a natural thing. We thought, we’ll build these and then we started to think about how we would connect with the community. We generally do tzedakah projects with the school and we think about reaching out. This was sort of the perfect combination… to give back to the community and to continue to instil that love of reading.”
The process started in November when Sheinberg and some teachers began reaching out to different organizations to establish which ones wanted to receive a library, before registering as members of the Little Free Library organization.
“The idea was that each class would build their own little free library. Part of our activity for Literacy Week was that we had the kids come in on a rotating basis and they built their little free libraries, and we also had book drives running. People have been donating books, which we’re going to be putting in these libraries, so every library will be packed full and donated.”
An educational organization called You Can Do It also came in to give the students instructions on how to build them.
The outdoor libraries are constructed to withstand the elements and are meant to be self-sustaining.
“They’re made of wood, but it’s waterproof wood. We had it sourced. And they’ve been painted with outdoor paint and they’re sealed, and there is a vent so the books don’t get mildew,” Sheinberg said.
She said the students have completed building them, and they’re ready to be delivered.
“This week we’ll be contacting the organizations to see when would be best and then we’re having kids sign up, kids who want to come with us, and we’ll be organizing, in conjunction with each organization, a time to go and drop if off and have a mini-celebration,” Sheinberg said.