November 10

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The Legacy of Todd Bol by Leigh Anne Eck

Game Changer!  Book Access for All Kids by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp has been released.  I know I cannot wait to read their ideas for providing book access to children, as I believe we all have a role in becoming a game changer.

I recently learned the founder of The Little Free Library, Todd Bol, had passed away.  Our newspaper ran an editorial on his contribution to the literacy world, and I learned some background information about him and his mission.  For many children and the communities in which they live, his initiative also has become a game changer.

As a tribute to his mother, who was a teacher, Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books, and placed it in his front yard. The idea took off in his neighborhood, and he began to build more and give them away.

Eventually, Bol’s goal was to surpass the number of Carnegie Libraries in the country – 2,508.  He told The Minneapolis Star Tribune, the he “wanted to see a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand.”  By the end of 2012,  over 4,000 libraries were set up across the country.

On the Little Free Library website, it states that it is a “nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.”

We know that the best way to increase reading achievement is through children’s access to books.  We know that access to books increases student motivation to read, which hopefully will lead to being lifelong readers.  Yet we know that many children in our communities do not have this access for a variety of reasons.

I live in a community with several Little Free Libraries.  Our librarian told me that the sponsors/owners have trouble keeping them stocked with books, especially children’s books.  When I sorted through and weeded out my own classroom library last year, I held a give-away for my students. The remaining books were kept in my car, and I distributed them throughout the summer to our Little Free Libraries.

This week, in honor of Todd Bol, I plan to pull some titles from my own library and from my personal stack and place them in the book boxes around town.  I challenge each of you to continue Todd’s work by finding a small way to provide access to books for children. Maybe find a nearby Little Free Library in your community and stock it with books.  Or maybe build your own Little Free Library. Or maybe donate books to a local school or charity.

I think Todd Bol would have been a proud member of The Nerdy Book Club, as his mission was simple.  He knew that books change lives. He knew that children reading and people reading to them changes the attitude of what is valued in a community, and that “people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.”

Isn’t that what we all wish for?

Leigh Anne is in her 12th year of teaching.  She has taught 4th and 5th grade and currently teaches 6th grade ELA at a middle school in Indiana.  She is working on her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Western Governors University with a goal of becoming a literacy coach. Leigh Anne has a passion for connecting kids with books and helping teachers develop a writing life. She is one of the moderators for #TeachWrite chat and contributors at the #TeachWrite Chat Blog. You can connect with her on Twitter @Teachr4 or on her blog, A Day in the Life.