How a 15 Year Old Built a Library
I’m a 22 year old who occasionally works at a local library. If you’ve ever stepped into a library on the weekend or after school hours you’d see that the place is filled with students researching for their school projects. Often they’ll come to me for help and I have to kindly tell them that we don’t have all the books they need. General libraries only hold a certain amount of books and you’d be surprised how few of them are actually helpful for school aged children. Sure there’s a ton of books for elementary/primary school aged kids but when you start getting into the middle school/high school age you’d be better off going to a university library and finding books there. (Or trying your luck with the internet, which isn’t wise because teachers tend to be weary of wikipedia.) The children and teenagers will borrow up whatever books they can and promptly leave. Who wants to stay at the library these days? Leisurely reading certainly isn’t the first thing you think of when you want to relax after a hard day of school. Kids have Xboxs, Playstations, iPhones, Macs, iPods, other handheld tablets for gaming. Well this 15 year old girl from Miami-Dade found a way to get kids reading – starting with building a collection of books that people her age and younger actually want to read.
Publishers Weekly reports that Lilli Leight, “began volunteering at Chapman when she was 13, working in the Family Resource Center with school-age children after school and on weekends. ‘I helped the children with their homework; we played games, and shared in many conversations about life and school,” said Leight. “But I noticed that when they finished their homework all attention promptly turned to video games or television. I realized that there were no books available to the children, and that no one ever thought to ask for a book.'”
“My goal was to help the Chapman children develop a love of reading and further foster my peers’ interest in reading,” Leight told PW. She began by collecting used books from friends, schools, and local organizations, as well as new books from her local bookstore, Books & Books, in Coral Gables. In exchange for the donations, Leight wrote shelf-talkers for Books & Books. At the same time her donations were beginning to roll in, Leight started iRead, a teen book club for her friends and other students that provided them with opportunities to meet authors and volunteer at Chapman. Soon, high schools in the area heard about Leight’s project and started encouraging their students to volunteer at Chapman as homework helpers.
The library now has 5,000 books. Leight was honored for her efforts with the Innovations in Reading Prize by the National Book Foundation.