SHOREWOOD – Kids living near Walnut Trails Elementary School in Shorewood can now walk over and pick out library books just outside the school, thanks to the installation of a Little Free Library.
Walnut Trails Principal Kathleen Cheshareck thought it would be neat to be a part of the Little Free Library system, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire a love of reading, build communities and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.
There are about 50,000 Little Free Libraries around the world in over 70 countries, and now Shorewood can stake its claim on the map of libraries.
Walnut Trails has the first Little Free Library in Shorewood, Cheshareck said.
Cheshareck opted not to buy one of the ready-made boxes, which can be expensive.
She instead turned to retired district custodian Jerry Blair for help, since woodworking is his hobby.
Blair not only built the library box but added his own custom touches, including an American flag on a stand, a desk and an old-fashioned blackboard.
“It’s beautiful,” Cheshareck said. “It resembles a little red schoolhouse.”
The idea of Little Free Library is to take a book to read, keep it if you like, and donate a book if you can.
Millions of books are exchanged each year through Little Free Libraries all over the world, greatly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. Little Free Libraries encourage a love of reading in areas where books are scarce.
Many of the Little Free Libraries are designed for people of all ages, but the Shorewood one is geared to primary and intermediate grade school kids.
Because it’s right in front of the school, it’s been getting a lot of business when kids are dropped off or picked up by the school buses.
“The kids are using it all the time, it’s very exciting for them,” Cheshareck said.
To start the library the school asked parents to donate gently used books. Now they have a stockpile to keep the library full of children’s books so over the summer kids can keep getting them.
Cheshareck loves that it’s in walking distance of homes in the neighborhood; and people in the neighborhood have been dropping off books.
“It’s a nice addition to the community,” she said. “So far the kids love it.”
In a quick search on the Little Free Library website, within 20 miles of Channahon I found one Little Free Library in Morris, one in Minooka, eight in Joliet, six in New Lenox, one in Mokena, one in Orland Park, two in Oswego, two in Yorkville, one in Naperville and seven in Bolingbrook.
In some places of the world there may be only one in a 20 mile radius – or none.
To get more information about starting a Little Free Library, or donating to the nonprofit to promote the love of reading, go to littlefreelibrary.org.
• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and issues in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.