‘Don’t think just because you’re a kid you can’t do it’

Students Win Grant to Open Pop-Up Library

Lily Howland, left, and Chloe Grifhorst want to share their love of books with others in Cedar Springs through a Little Free Library

Chloe Grifhorst and Lily Howland love reading books, especially fiction by authors like John Green and Margaret Peterson Haddix. They want others in Cedar Springs to enjoy books whenever they want, for free.

So the enterprising sixth-graders from Red Hawk Elementary went out and got themselves a $250 grant to build a Little Free Library – a free-standing structure where students and community members can take and give books as they choose. Chloe and Lily recently were awarded the grantfrom the Cedar Springs Education Foundation.

They’re now forming a committee to design and build a structure somewhere on the Cedar Springs Public Schools campus. They hope to collect donated books and have it open by school year’s end, to fill what they see as a community need.

“We know there’s (already) a library, but not all people have access to it on a daily basis,” Chloe explained. Added Lily, “We wanted to make sure people know how important reading is, and learn to love reading.”

The idea grew out of “geographic inquiry” discussions in teacher John Willette’s social-studies unit, in which he cited the nationwide Little Free Library movement as an example of how to implement a public project using data. The idea caught Lily and Chloe’s interest, and he suggested they form a group to build one with grant funding.

“I just sort of planted the seed,” Willette said. “From there, they’ve taken off with it.”

The students put together a persuasive PowerPoint presentation to the Education Foundation, in one week over lunch hours and recess. Within two days they learned they’d gotten the grant, much to their amazement.

Their advice to other students with big ideas? Chloe: “Don’t be afraid to try new things.” Lily: “Don’t think just because you’re a kid you can’t do it. You can meet your goals if you believe in yourself.”

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Cedar Springs Education Foundation

Little Free Library

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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