A brightly painted, outdoor wooden box brimming with books was dedicated on Friday, Dec. 12, at Buffalo Creek Elementary School. The event marked the first launch of United Way of Greater Houston’s Tiny Libraries outreach effort.
The afternoon ribbon cutting at Buffalo Creek Elementary was followed an hour later by the dedication of a new Tiny Library at the Brenda and John Duncan YMCA, located at 10655 Clay Road in Spring Branch.
Up to 30 Tiny Libraries will pop up at other elementary schools and United Way affiliate agencies and nonprofit groups across the region in the weeks ahead. The libraries are designed to provide Houston-area children with easy access to give-and-take, free reading materials such as age-appropriate books.
At Buffalo Creek Elementary, 114 second-graders joined School Principal David Rodriguez and early-career professionals in United Way’s LINC (Lead, Impact, Network, Change) support group in the first ribbon cutting event.
LINC volunteers built, decorated and provided free books to stock planned Tiny Libraries. Members of the LINC group are all 30 years old or younger.
The Tiny Library at Buffalo Creek Elementary, 2801 Blalock, stands outside the school’s front door near the campus front drive and visitor parking area. It draws attention with its brightly painted, blue box that resembles the artist Vincent Van Gogh masterpiece, “Starry Night,” awash with heavenly stars.
In Houston, United Way notes, more than 60 percent of lower-income families do not have books at home for their children. Research also shows that less than half of all third-graders have the reading skills necessary to succeed in fourth grade or beyond. Putting more books in student homes is a critical task.
Principal David Rodriguez thanked the United Way volunteers for their good work and for creating a fun way for Buffalo Creek students to have access to books. The school and United Way are partners in a separate program called Reading Together in which United Way mentors meet and read weekly with 30 second-graders.
“We have partnered to bring United Way Reading Together to our campus, and we have seen some great successes come from our students reading one-on-one with their reading buddies. Tiny Libraries are another way we are making sure our kids know the importance of reading and have the tools and resources they need to become strong readers and successful students,” Principal Rodriguez said.
Nicole Ketchum, a United Way LINC volunteer, spoke to students during Friday afternoon’s outdoor ribbon cutting along with the principal.
“Tiny Libraries look a little bit like big birdhouses, but they are homes to books, not birds. They are small libraries where kids – like you all! – can come and find a book to take home and read,” she said. “And when you’re finished, just bring the book back to the Tiny Library here at Buffalo Creek Elementary so that other kids can read it, too.”
The Tiny Libraries work on a “take one, leave one” concept so students are urged to take a new book and return the ones they have read. Each library holds up to 50 books. Elementary schools and United Way agencies will have ownership of Tiny Libraries, including the placement and stocking of free books.
United Way of Greater Houston believes that Tiny Libraries can make a difference in putting more books in the hands of young children most at risk.
“We know that children who don’t have access to books – at home or in the community – have difficulty developing basic reading skills, such as letter and word recognition and comprehension, which are critical to academic success,” The United Way stated in a press release. “In addition, research shows that children who can’t read proficiently by the fourth-grade lag behind their peers and often don’t catch up.”