The long tradition of one-room schoolhouses spreading literacy in rural areas of Colorado continues this summer in Granby, thanks to two Indian Peaks Charter School 7th-graders and their teacher.
Akram Hanna and Zane Schuessler weren’t familiar with the “Little Free Library” movement when their teacher, Vickie Simpson, saw a TV news story about one. She suggested the boys make one as a special project.
“We didn’t really know anything about it,” said Hanna. “But then we looked it up on the internet… We thought it was a good idea.”
The project began with a one-room schoolhouse model designed and built by John Coffey, a miniature builder from Hot Sulphur Springs. The two students then painted, stained, and designed and built furniture for the school.
“They are really good students,” said Simpson. “They’re pretty artistic and they like science.”
That was about midway through the school year. As summer approached, Simpson planted the idea of making the schoolhouse into something useful, something that would encourage people to read through the summer.
“I feel like it is an interesting way for people to get books — a creative way to get books,” said Schuessler.
“It makes you feel like it wasn’t a pointless project because it’s doing something,” said Hanna.
The “Little Free Library” that now sits in front of the charter school in Granby offers free books to take, read and return, or exchange for a different book. The IPCS library provided the current books available, which range from summer beach reads for adults to science books, activity books, and most importantly — a Lego book.
“We have plenty of books for all different ages,” said Simpson.
The boys recognize that likely IPCS students, parents, and teachers will primarily use the library. But they are open to a wider audience.
“It’s meant for everybody,” said Scheussler.
“Just try to return the books,” added Hanna.
The “Little Free Library” movement started in 2009 with Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis. The son of a teacher and avid reader, Bol built a model — also of a one-room schoolhouse — and filled it with books. He placed it on a pole in his front yard with a sign that read “Free books.” His neighbors and friends loved the idea and asked him to build more. According to the nonprofit’s website, littlefreelibrary.org, as of January 2014, there were over 15,000 little free libraries around the world, with more being built.
In addition to spreading literacy to others, Hanna and Schuessler learned some other valuable lessons from making the library.
“We learned how to stain it and some things about the structure,” said Schuessler. “And I think it will push me next year and even after that… I’ll keep doing stuff like this.”
“We learned that you don’t want to get stain on your clothes,” said Hanna.
The “Little Free Library” will be available to everyone until the snow falls, after which it may be moved inside.
The Indian Peaks Charter School is a free public school that serves students in kindergarten through 8th grades.