DPS seeks Little Free Libraries for all 97 schools

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Detroit Public Schools Community District and community organizations are encouraging students to “take a book, leave a book” to combat the “summer slide.”

Filled with books like “The Witch with a Twitch,” “Pandora’s Box” and Rosa Parks’ “Quiet Strength,” the first DPS Little Free Library opened Thursday at Marcus Garvey Academy during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, celebrating the district’s campaign to gain sponsors to install one of the tiny libraries at each of its 97 schools to increase students’ access to books.

“Reading opens up doors,” said Alycia Meriweather, DPS interim superintendent. “Reading takes you to places you might not ever get to go in real life, but because you read about it, you can see it.”

Little Free Libraries hold books, which community members can take to read — no library card needed. After finishing it, they can return the book or replace it with another.

So far, 27 schools have commitments of $350-$400 from organizations and individuals to sponsor a little library. People also can fund books for the libraries through the DPS Foundation, which is sponsoring 10 of the portable book dispensaries.

“Reading is a wonderful thing,” said DPS Foundation President Pamela Moore, who is donating two libraries in honor of her late father, William Edwards, who inspired her love of reading. “It opens up our mind. It opens up doors and opportunities for us.”

Book clubs from as far as Alaska, Montana and Nevada have pledged to support the campaign as well.

Dressed like a red schoolhouse, the little library at Garvey is a replica of the first Little Free Library created in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin, by Todd Bol. There are more than 40,000 in the U.S. now, said Kim Kozlowski, founder of the Detroit Little Libraries campaign.

Most of the libraries will be made in Wisconsin in sets of 20, but the campaign hopes to work with community members as well, said Kozlowski, a Detroit News reporter. Ndubisi Okoye, art director from Huge Inc., painted a little library for his 2010 alma mater, Cass Technological High School.

Ian Larson, a Boy Scout from Troop 229 in Wixom, has built three little libraries for the initiative as a part of his service project to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouting. He plans to hold a book drive, too.

“I found out about the libraries and thought it was a great idea to promote reading and literacy,” Larson said.

A study released last month found that there is one book for every 42 children in Detroit, Kozlowksi said.

Since the campaign began two years ago, about 150 little libraries have been placed at homes, nonprofits, businesses and community gardens in Detroit, Kozlowski said. Last year, Bol honored Detroit as the fastest growing city of Little Free Libraries.

The goal is to install 313 in the city, Meriweather said: “Now we have a challenge to make Detroit the Little Free Library capital of the world.”.

Thursday’s ceremony came in conjunction with the end of summer school and the kickoff of the Superintendent’s Summer Reading Challenge.

It encourages students to read 150 minutes every week until Sept. 6, the first day of the school year. They can log their time and monitor their progress on Scholastic Reading’s website. If they complete the goal each week, students earn badges.

Meriweather encouraged parents to ask their students questions about the books to ensure they understand the material.

“We want to make sure you’re keeping up with the reading,” Meriweather said. “The Little Free Library is providing access to books.”


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DPS reading list

Below are recommended books for summer reading by grade leve:

Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten

1. “Click, Clack, Splish, Splash: A Counting Adventure” – Doreen Cronin

2. “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” – Ella Fitzgerald

Grade 1

1. “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” – Judith Viorst

2. “Are You a Bee?” – Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries

Grade 2

1. “Abiyoyo” – Pete Seeger

2. “A Chair for My Mother” – Vera B. Williams

Grade 3

1. “41/2Friends and the Secret Cave” –Joachim Friedrich

2. “11 Birthdays” – Wendy Mass

Grade 4

1. “A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story” – Linda Sue Park

2. “A Stranger at Home: A True Story” – Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Grade 5

1. “2030: A Day in the Life of Tomorrow’s Kids” –Amy Zuckerman and James Daly

2. “A Friendship for Today” – Patricia C. McKissack

Grade 6

1. “12 Brown Boys” – Omar Tyree

2. “A Tale Dark & Grimm” – Adam Gidwitz

Grade 7

1. “90 Miles to Havana” – Enrique Flores-Galbis

2. “Acceleration” – Graham McNamee

Grade 8

1. “A Dream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968” – Diane McWhorter

2. “Al Capone Does My Shirts” – Gennifer Choldenko

Grade 9

1. “Abarat” – Clive Barker

2. “A Curse Dark as Gold” – Elizabeth C. Bunce

Grade 10

1. “A Crack in the Line” – Michael Lawrence

2. “A Girl Named Disaster” – Nancy Farmer

Grades 11 and 12

1. “13 Little Blue Envelopes” – Maureen Johnson

2. “A Farewell to Arms” – Ernest Hemingway