MANSFIELD — A new Little Free Library was installed outside Eastview Elementary last month, thanks to a student-led initiative.
It all started in Kathie Jansen’s third-grade classroom. In November, her students read a book about the man who started the Little Free Library movement.
It was a standard part of the curriculum, but this year, it resonated with the young readers like never before.
“Once we were done reading the book, our teacher had us go back to our seats and write a jot, which is a little thought,” student Peyton Hager said. “Joseph (Reddy) wrote a jot that said, ‘We should have a Little Free Library.’ ”
Hager and the other students in Reddy’s reading group, Lincoln Bays and Hailey Snelling, agreed.
“I’ve seen little free libraries at parks and other places, so I thought it would be good to have one at our school,” Reddy said.
Jansen was impressed, but told the four students it was their project. They had to take ownership and come up with a plan to get it done. The four students went to work, generating ideas in a shared Google Doc.
“The students came up with a plan of how we would make the library and stock it with books,” Jansen said.
The four youngsters planned how the books would be arranged. They would place beginner-level books on the bottom shelf so younger readers could reach.
Chapter books aimed at older students would go on top. They even met with Eastview Principal Melissa Wigton to present their ideas for the project.
Wigton said she was excited to see the students taking initiative to make a difference in the community. She helped connect them with her husband Andrew, who teaches carpentry at Madison Comprehensive High School. His students agreed to build the Little Free Library.
“This project provided a forum for students to work on cabinet building. It also was a great way for my students to give back to the community,” Andrew Wigton said.
“I think my students were excited to see the reactions from the younger students. Some of them also attended Eastview, so it was really cool for them to be able to go back to the school and help build this little library.”
The third-grade group reviewed design models of other Little Free Libraries to find one they liked, then made a copy and gave it to the high school carpentry class.
Jansen said the project taught her students how to be committed and follow through, even when it meant waiting longer than expected.
“We worked on this project just on rainy days,” Andrew Wigton said. “It took a couple months as we had to decide specific materials in the plan. We also had to determine if it was going to go outside or inside.”
Melissa Wigton said the third graders remained committed.
“I think it took a little longer than what the kids were hoping for, but they were so devoted to checking in on it and asking me all the time about the progress,” she said.
“I’m excited to see this group bring that project all the way from the beginning to the finish. They realized that things don’t happen overnight.”
After months of preparation, the library was installed on April 27. Its shelves are stocked with fiction and nonfiction for various reading levels.
Community members are welcome to borrow or keep books, but are asked not to put their own in the library.
Jansen and each of the four students will take home boxes of books to restock the library over the summer.
“I’ve read this book, probably 12 times with different groups, but this is the first group that said, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Jansen said.
“What is so special about this project is that it is 100-percent student-generated, right down to our high school carpentry class building the structure.”