Berm students open Little Free Library

Under the guidance of second grade teacher Timothy Rundle, right, and reading specialist Jessica Smith, far left, these second grade students installed a Little Free Library at Bermudian Springs Elementary School. A grand opening for this free book exchange was held Tuesday. (Holly Fletcher/Gettysburg Times)

With only days left until summer vacation, Bermudian Springs Elementary School installed a Little Free Library, giving youngsters access to books when school is closed.

The outdoor custom-built tiny library, with a colorful Dr. Seuss-like theme, is a free book exchange for local young readers.

Parents and school administrators got a look at the newly-installed mini library, located by the car rider entrance, during a grand opening Tuesday morning.

About four weeks ago, Tim Rundell's second grade class read a book titled "Biblioburro" about a man and his donkeys who brought books to kids who could not afford them. As students finished reading, they discussed some of the reasons why the man's job was so important and what factors in the community caused a need for this type of work.

"We found a lot of similarities to situations some of our own students may be facing and our students had a desire to help," said Jessica Smith, reading specialist.

The students researched Little Free Libraries and after reading articles and watching videos, they were convinced their own community needed one. They designed the structure and voted on Gabby Vandermark and Rosie Irvin's design as the blueprints they would use moving forward.

The girls incorporated a bright design as well as lots of storage to accommodate as many books as possible.

A combination effort between Lawrence Construction and Smith's dad Mike Bennett (Mike's KARS) brought the design to life.

The students painted the Little Free Library at school and the maintenance department installed it after students decided on a good location that was easily accessible and highly visible.

Throughout the process the students worked to create flyers for a book drive where they collected more than 1,000 books to keep the little library fully stocked. They also created grand opening invitations, a commercial and a thank-you video.

"I realized this was more than just a school project when the students took their recess time to create our thank-you video, telling me that thanking these people was more important than going out to recess," said Smith.

Rundle agreed.

"The kids really took ownership of this project," he said.

Even the grand opening event, complete with speeches, ribbon cutting, streamers, and ice pops, was planned by the students.

The free book exchange at Bermudian is one of thousands of Little Free Libraries throughout the country. While the original Little Free Library was patterned after a one-room school house in recognition of the creator's mother, mini libraries have taken on a plethora of shapes and sizes in communities across the country. Each holds books which can be taken, returned or passed along.

Bermudian staff will keep their miniature library stocked over the summer. In the fall, a group of students known as "stewards" will maintain it.

Shannon Myers, school principal, lauded Smith and Rundle for providing students with this opportunity. "This project has truly helped students see the value of their hard work and recognize the large number of people it takes to make something like this happen," she said. "I can only imagine the sense of pride these students will feel each time they walk by their creation and better yet get to watch another student select a book to read."

Second grader Jeremiah Chiapetta said everyone should read to learn new information and be smarter. His first choice from the Little Free Library was a set of books about the Titanic.

Rosie Irvin said the project was fun, especially the painting part. Salvador Moreno-Arredondo said he enjoyed sorting through the donated books. Students organized their mini library by reading levels. The bottom shelf has easy-reader books for kindergarten through second grades, the middle shelf has books for second through fourth grade readers, and the top shelf has chapter books for older readers and even cookbooks for grownups.

The whole idea is, if you have a book, give a book. If you need a book, take a book.

There are no strings attached and, according to the students, "no due dates."

Holly Fletcher has been a member of the Gettysburg Times staff for more than 20 years. She is currently the assistant editor and Newspaper in Education coordinator. Holly covers Latimore Township, York Springs and Bermudian Springs School District.

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