Launch! 97 Little Libraries at 97 Detroit Public Schools

Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather speaks at the project launch. Beside her is the little library she’s personally donated to Marcus Garvey Academy. This one is a replica of the “school house” first ever little library.

The countdown has begun! Plant 97 little libraries at all 97 Detroit public schools in 97 days.

The “summer slide” in reading has already begun in Detroit as children from book-impoverished neighborhoods are slipping behind their peers living in neighborhoods rich with summer reading materials.

This summer, Alycia Meriweather, the new interim superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, is doing something about it.

And she needs your help.

She, along with the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, Detroit Little Libraries, and the national Little Free Library organization, launched the project last Thursday and are putting out a call to people who care about Detroit’s children.

>The goal is bold. No school district has ever attempted this. And to do it in Detroit, well…. it could become a another touchstone in the national narrative about Detroit’s revival.

“If Detroit can pulls this off, it could become a model for cities across the country,” says Tony Bol, of the  Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization based outside the Twin Cities. “We’re excited to help Detroit and see where this could go.”

The first Detroit school little library opened for business during the project launch. Here Detroit students couldn’t wait to discover what was inside and bring a book home.

A study by Dr. Susan Neuman, a former University of Michigan professor and literacy expert now at New York University, published a study this July showing just one book for every 42 children in a Detroit neighborhood. Detroit is a great proving ground. Its schools are challenged and many of its neighborhoods are book deserts.

Just one little library at each school has the power and potential to dramatically change those dismal statistics.

For those unfamiliar with a Little Free Libraries, they are dollhouse-size structures that will be placed at each school and kept stocked with children’s books year round. Students simply stop by, open the  little library. and take a book. They can keep it or return it when they are done. It’s highly visible and free. Detroit Little Libraries has been working with supporters to give away these little libraries throughout the community, and more than 150 have been planted in front of Detroit homes, small businesses, nonprofits, parks, health care centers, community gardens and more. Last year, Little Free Library Founder Todd Bol honored the work in Detroit and declared it to be the fastest growing city of Little Free Libraries  in the nation!

In Detroit, where literacy rates are low, Little Free Libraries Libraries already are changing the paradigm of book access in an era when many schools no longer have libraries, public libraries have shuttered or scaled back hours and transportation issues can hinder residents’ access to libraries that are distant from their homes. The Little Free Library serves as a mini town square where the community can gather and where social justice in book access becomes a reality.

Studies show that one simple thing — giving children access to books — can increase literacy and set students on a trajectory that will change their lives.

“Ultimately, giving kids access to books may be one of the most overlooked solutions to helping ensure kids attend school with the tools they need to succeed,” writes Alia Wong in The Altantic’s July issue. Read the full article, Where Books Are All But Nonexistent.

Detroit artist Ndubisi Okoye with the library he created donated to Cass Technical.

At the project launch event, Detroit artist Ndubisi Okoye gave the library he created, titled “Keep Dreaming.” “I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to give back to Cass Tech,” Okoye said. “I learned so much there and discovered my passion for literacy and visual arts. The students and faculty will gain a sense of pride by having a Little Free Library there from an alum.”

Ian Larson, a Boy Scout with Troop 229 in Wixom built three little libraries as part of pursing his Eagle Scout Badge. He donated them to Detroit schools and will do a book drive to stock them. “I found out about the libraries,” Larson said, “and thought it was a great idea to promote reading and literacy.”

The Detroit Public Schools Foundation is sponsoring 10 schools, as is Detroit Little Libraries.

Even book clubs are getting into the project. We’ve got book clubs from Montana, Nevada, and Alaska sponsoring!

Please join us. Make history and promote literacy in Detroit.

Sponsor a school library or give to the crowd fund here.

Explore the project more here.

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