We see an empty or disused room as a room full of possibilities. And as book lovers on a mission to ensure all children have a solid start on their journeys toward literacy, we love to imagine a library filling that space. And if a school, shelter, or community center director has the same idea? A library comes to life!
Have you ever wondered how Books for Kids makes that vision a reality?
48% of US three and four year olds spend their weekdays in preschool. So we wanted to go right to where the children are. Books for Kids has forged partnerships with preschools across the country in order to bring children and families a necessary (but often missing) resource: a library. With 46 libraries currently in our family, which also include other early-childhood locations such as family shelters and community centers, we’ve seen first hand how valuable a library is to a community that’s under-resourced. When school budgets aren’t big enough to meet every need, the idea of stocking and maintaining a library often gets set aside. Schools across the nation have learned to prioritize, making the best of funds available – libraries get cut to leverage money for more nutritious lunches or a new social worker. We don’t believe these are compromises a school should ever have to make. So that’s where we come in: providing libraries directly to children who need them.
Once a partnership has been made and a space, such as an old storage room or an empty classroom, has been identified, it’s time to get building. And that’s when we turn to our friends at Windmill Studios to help us transform the room into a dedicated library. Part of the BFK team for nearly six years, Windmill has beautified spaces right here at home in NYC and has traveled across the country to create libraries in Alabama, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada. No task is too big or small for the Windmill team, and their work is done largely behind the scenes. From annual events to library builds, renovations to repairs, they do it all (and there is much to be done). This work takes many hands, and we’re glad we’ve got partners like Windmill on our side.
“The beautiful children’s libraries that Windmill Studios builds for our schools, shelters, and community centers are transformative. These spaces strengthen and support the reading culture in a building and they provide a much needed place for people of all ages to come together to enjoy the magic of books.”
– Lisa Francese, Books for Kids Program Director
Once the walls are painted, decor is hung, and the shelves are built, we then fill the room with a carefully curated selection of books designed to open up the world for little readers. We want these spaces to be places where children want to be. And when we see kids practically running into the room on library day, we know we did it right.
This is our mission: to fill in the gaps. The bring life to empty or disused spaces in ways that best serve a community. We want to close the learning gaps. The vocabulary gaps. To ensure no child is denied that simple pleasure of pulling a book off a shelf. These gaps are created largely through inequities in school funding and other systemic injustices which profoundly affect the lives of the families we serve. And until the root causes of these inequities have been addressed, we will be here for as many communities as we can be. It takes the rallying of our generous supporters, the advocacy of early literacy educators, and ongoing partnerships with community leaders to keep these libraries well-maintained, implement literacy programming where that kind of partnership is possible, and to create even more libraries for children who currently lack them.
Creating libraries is an investment in communities. It’s a sign that says no child should be without the books they love and need. A library, lovingly maintained and joyfully used, says “this community matters.”
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