Inspired by their community’s commitment to literacy, a group of Wilson Reading System® students in Taylor County, Wisconsin, brought a Little Free Library to their elementary school in Medford. In the process, they gained a valuable, hands-on lesson in civic engagement.
During a WRS Step 10 lesson at Medford Area Elementary School (MAES), students read a story about the 40,000 Little Free Library book exchanges that have popped up over the past six years in neighborhoods throughout every state in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Dubbed a “global sensation” by The Wall Street Journal, the Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization received a Library of Congress Literacy Award in 2015 for its effective implementation of best practices in literacy and reading promotion for children and adults.
After learning from District Reading Specialist Amy Wildberg that 10 of the tiny lending libraries had been installed right in their own community by the Taylor County Literacy Council, the students were even more intrigued.
With the support of their reading teachers – Ms. Wildberg, Kim Fechhelm, Misty Galli, and Kathy Schumacher – they embarked on a tour of each library, and decided they would like to create one at their own school and name it the “Wilson Little Free Library” in recognition of their reading class. They turned to “Mr. Joe,” Joseph A. Greget, Director of Special Education and Student Services for the Medford Area Public School District, who also serves as President of the Taylor County Literacy Council.
The students were guided to bring their request to MAES Principal Dan Miller, who wholeheartedly endorsed the idea. Next, they attended a meeting of the Taylor County Literacy Council to ask if it would be willing to help them build a library and register it on the Little Free Library website. With the council’s support, the students went on to successfully present their proposal to the Medford Area School District Board of Education for approval.
Within a month, the Wilson Little Free Library, in the shape of a yellow school bus, was built and installed at the elementary school with the help of literacy council member Chuck Prihoda. Students, teachers, parents, community members, and literacy council volunteers celebrated the achievement during a dedication ceremony. Groups of Wilson students now take responsibility by ensuring that the library is kept neat and organized and filled with books.
The partnership between the Taylor County Literacy Council, the Medford Area Public School District and Wilson continues to flourish. In addition to the Wilson Reading System, Fundations® and Just Words® are now used in classes at each of the district’s elementary, middle, high, and adult academy schools. The programs are offered to students at prevention, intervention, and intensive levels and student success stories are prevalent and widespread, said Mr. Greget, the recipient of Wilson’s 2016 Mary Ann Bonneau Administrator of the Year Award.
“Students like Josh, Aimee, Charlie, Ike, Clay, Kaelee, and so many others have gained the reading skills and self-confidence they need to accomplish anything they want in the world,” he said. “Not only are our Wilson students learning to read, but they are also understanding the importance of building literacy-rich environments in their local school and communities, which helps them and other students now and will benefit future generations of students as well.”