Books for Kids in Boston: Two New Libraries!

In the words of Elephant and Piggie, “We are growing!” We are pleased to announce that we’ve opened, not one, but TWO brand new libraries in Boston, Massachusetts. Thanks to the generosity of the Mario Batali Foundation, a long-time Books for Kids partner, the more than 430 children and families served by ABCD Geneva Early Head Start and Horizons for Homeless Children now have Ms. Vanessa as their dedicated Library Specialist in the library.

Opening a library is no small task. My favorite part of the process is calling the organizations to notify them of their future library and literacy programs. The joy that comes when children are provided these kinds of resources is infectious, and I know how much it’s going to mean to the kids, their families, and their teachers. But every moment, from the build and installation to the ribbon cutting day, is thrilling to our team, so we thought we’d share a little of that excitement from the Boston opening with you all.

Once the library location was chosen, our partners from Windmill Studios traveled to Boston in March to bring the library vision to life. There are many considerations when designing a library for the youngest learners (think: can they reach the shelf?), and we make sure that it’s an environment that’s both fun and encourages developmentally appropriate learning. Once Windmill takes over, they paint, install shelving, and affix the decorative wall elements. The process takes about one to two days for each library.

And now, it’s time to talk about the best part: the books.

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What’s a library without books?

I ordered the books for each library in February, and the boxes were all delivered in March. The number of books purchased for any of our libraries depends on the number of children enrolled, so collections can vary drastically. BFK’s Executive Director, Amanda Hirsh, and I traveled to Boston on March 29th and went straight to ABCD Geneva, the larger of the two new libraries. With the help of several volunteers, Amanda, Vanessa, and I unpacked and organized over 2,000 books! (That book order is one of my proudest accomplishments!) The following day, we did the same at Horizons. This collection, of which I am also exceptionally proud, was a collection of over 1,000 books.

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Look at all these books! And there are many, many more.

The only thing left to do was open the library.

On March 31, 2017, Books for Kids participated in Read Eat Grow, an event sponsored by the Mario Batali Foundation to celebrate their dedication and support for Books for Kids, as well as to two other organizations they help support: FoodCorps and First Book. The ceremony took place at ABCD Geneva, and all the attendees got to see the brand new library in person, complete and brimming with books. Children wandered in and out of the library, enraptured, one even exclaiming, “I saw this when there weren’t any books! It looks better now!” High praise. First Book distributed thousands of free books to educators and FoodCorps passed out a delicious and healthy treat. The event epitomized the mission of the Mario Batali Foundation: to ensure all children are well read, well fed and well cared for.

And what happens after a library opening, when the speeches are done and the cameras go away? Literacy programs began at both schools the following week. Our Library Specialists lead magical StoryTimes, facilitate book lending, and plan and implement literacy events for families and teachers in all their libraries. Ms. Vanessa noted that two of the most popular StoryTime books at both schools are This Book is Out Of Control by Richard Byrne and Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. The students at Horizons studied authors at the beginning of the school year, so they tend to choose books by Mo Willems to borrow for the week to read at home with their families. The students at Geneva love borrowing Peppa Pig books each week.

We thank The Mario Batali Foundation and all our other generous supporters for helping us spread the love of reading and high-quality programming across the country. We look forward to all the exciting opportunities and special StoryTime moments to come.

Here’s a library from start to finish:

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by Samantha Murray Doktor, Books for Kids Program Officer, in collaboration with Samantha Salloway.
Follow Sam Murray Doktor her on her literacy Instagram account @gabandgrow for more book recommendations and tips.