Three new Little Free Libraries have been installed at rural childcare centers in Lafayette County, thanks to a local Boy Scout Troop and the Lafayette County & Oxford Public Library in partnership with the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction (CELI) and the LOU Reads Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
The libraries, which operate on a “take a book, leave a book” basis, are located at Kids College in Abbeville, My Little Ones off Bay Springs Road and Hope’s Childcare on County Road 102. The libraries are the newest of nine installed in Lafayette County and were personally installed by Andrew Henderson of Boy Scout Troop No. 144.
“We are thrilled to be working with these three childcare centers to make free books available where young children and their parents come and go every day,” said Meridith Wulff, youth specialist with the Lafayette County & Oxford Public Library, a branch of the First Regional Library system. “It complements the puppet shows and other services we provide to childcare centers to promote early literacy skills. Andrew and his family have always been big supporters of literacy in our community and his efforts with this project will make a big difference for a lot of local children.”
Henderson, whose troop helped install the libraries as part of his Eagle Scout project, also held a book drive to stock them and planted easy-care bulbs and perennials around some of the libraries. Books also are provided by the Library, CELI and LOU Reads.
“I chose installing and stocking Little Free Libraries for the Lafayette County & Oxford Public Library as my Eagle Scout project because I enjoyed volunteering for the Literacy Council as a Scout and as a member of Junior Leadership Lafayette and this was another way that I could promote literacy,” Henderson said. “I hope this will get more books into the hands of preschoolers who are just learning to read. I taught both of my younger sisters to read when they were that age and it can be hard to find books that are engaging.”
The new libraries are stocked primarily with books for kids but also contain books for older siblings as well as parents and caregivers. In addition to books, the libraries contain public library program calendars and information for parents and caregivers about how to use books and other resources to develop their children’s early learning skills.
Other Little Free Libraries managed by the library are located at Lafayette County Fire Stations in Harmontown, Paris and on Highway 30 East, as well as at Mary Cathey Head Start Center, Gordon Community and Cultural Center in Abbeville, and at Community Green, an LOU Home affordable housing neighborhood. The libraries were built last fall by Oxford resident and University of Mississippi student Harriman Abernathy with financial support from CELI and materials donated by Elliott Lumber Company. Each library is overseen by an individual steward in that community who checks it weekly to ensure it is stocked and in good repair.
“The Little Free Library project is a vital part of our community outreach to increase children’s access to quality books,” said Suzanne Ryals, who serves as lead of LOU Reads Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and director of Early Childhood and Reading Development for Oxford School District, Lafayette County School District, City of Oxford and Lafayette County. “We want to increase the opportunities children have to self-select books they find interesting to increase literacy learning. The Little Free Libraries allow us to expand literacy opportunities in our childcare centers and more remote areas of our county. The support from Harriman and Andrew has been instrumental in making this vision a reality.”