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Cepela said when United Way of Will County reached out to Fairmont in March about the Read to Succeed program and its Little Free Library, she was for it.
“Our school district last year had low test scores and a high percentage of poverty,” Cepela said, adding that the number of students who participate in the free or reduced lunch program is at 100 percent, which means 100 percent of the students live at or below the poverty level.
Cepela said the Little Free Library's location at the school was strategically planned.
“We have a preschool entrance that’s part of our regular building, where the preschoolers are dropped off and picked at lunchtime or at the end of the afternoon session, so parents have to come in and out to get them,” Cepela said.
Now in that same wing of the preschool is a classroom for the English Language learners, where a monthly bilingual parents meeting is held, Cepela said. Since 40 percent of the students are Hispanic, that room was a good choice for the Little Free Library, Cepela said.
“Many of the books were donated, but the Women of United Way also had a small budget, so they bought books in Spanish, which is our second language here,” Cepela said. “A little over 900 books were donated to Fairmont.”
Cepela said she had read a study conducted in Los Angeles last year that the number of reading material – magazines, newspapers and/or books – in homes of high poverty is less than homes with higher incomes.
“Obviously, that affects one’s ability to read,” Cepela said. “The more families have access to books, the better.”
Cepela said families who are poor and don’t speak English well might be reluctant to seek out the local public library. But if they do, they may struggle in accessing its resources and applying for cards.
This is in addition to the challenge of transporting the books back and forth after they check them out.
“It can be overwhelming,” Cepela said.
(Above, Several books sit on a on bench-shaped Little Library on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at Fairmont School in Lockport, Ill).