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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer/SUSAN HOLLAND Eighth grader Jaxon Galyean and seventh grader Matthew Holland, students in Pam Page's gifted and talented classes, pose beside the Little Free Library they helped construct. Students chose the themes and built the structures which will be delivered to provide books in areas of south Arkansas with few libraries.

GRAVETTE -- Students in Pam Page's gifted and talented classes at Gravette Middle School have been involved in a special project to help promote reading. Youngsters in her sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes are building Little Free Libraries to be sent to areas in rural Arkansas that have no libraries. Six of the libraries are almost complete, two in each of her three classes.

Page says all of her students love to read and want to share their love of reading with others. They were inspired by their participation in R-I-S-E Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson's Reading Initiative for Student Excellence. One goal of the R-I-S-E campaign is "to build a culture of reading."

Students started by simply making lists for others of books they had particularly enjoyed reading. That small idea mushroomed into the free library project. A check on the R-I-S-E website showed the students that there are areas in the state that, unlike Benton County, have very few libraries. Drew County, where the free libraries built in Gravette will be installed, has only three libraries in the entire county.

Fired by the knowledge that her students could do much more, Page encouraged them and has supported them ever since they chose to take on the Little Free Library project. Work began in November, and class members worked on their library structures in intervals between their regular classroom instruction. Some supplies, including tools and paint, were supplied by the students. Each class chose the themes for their libraries and began by making templates out of cardstock. When their models were complete, they started work with actual materials. Students gave her measurements and Page did the cutting, she said.

There were mistakes along the way, Page noted, but, realizing the materials were valuable, the young carpenters soon learned to make adjustments, make accurate measurements the first time and conserve materials.

Page's classes have registered with the Little Free Library program and received charter signs, small metal plaques designating their structures as official Little Free Libraries, which have been affixed to the front. A Little Free Library stamp has been obtained which will be used to stamp each book with the "Not For Resale" message. Books are being collected and donations of books for all ages will be accepted but only if they are in good condition. Each structure will contain about 25 books, for both children and adults. Books may be brought to Page at the middle school before the March 30 deadline.

The motto of the Little Free Library program is "Take a Book, Return a Book," but Page's students realize that there may be some readers who don't respect the rules. They are hopeful that each person who takes a book out will bring back one or more books, but they are realistic enough not to expect it of everyone. They have accepted that and say, "Well, at least that person will have a book at home now," Page says.

Page's students chose Drew County as the location for their Little Free Libraries because of her family ties in the county. Several generations of her husband's family have lived in the county, she said. Locations being considered include Ladelle, a ghost town near Monticello; Prairie Chapel Church, a 100-year-old church at an isolated crossroads; and Fountain Hill. Many students in rural areas of the county have few books in their homes. Library books in some schools are restricted to classroom use only and students are not allowed to take them home because of limited budgets to replace lost or damaged books.

Roxie Wright, director of the Bella Vista Library, has come on board as a supporter of the Little Free Library project and is donating many of the books that will be placed inside. Wright came to northwest Arkansas from Monticello, so she is familiar with the scarcity of books in parts of Drew County.

When the Little Free Libraries are completed, Page plans to take them to Monticello and deliver them to Judy Calhoun, Arkansas State Libraries regional director in south Arkansas.

Community on 02/28/2018

Print Headline: Middle school students create Little Free Libraries

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