Home » News » Around Waupaca County » Promoting literacy in Iola

Promoting literacy in Iola

Little Free Libraries benefit children

By Holly Neumann

Michael Hicks reads a book from the book exchange program to his little brother Jaydon Byrnes during Thursday Night on Main.
Michael Hicks reads a book from the book exchange program to his little brother Jaydon Byrnes during Thursday Night on Main.

Placing books into the hands of children is key to encouraging literacy.

Students in the Iola-Scandinavia benefit from things like the Little Free Library located at Iola Sentry Foods and the summer reading program with this year’s theme of Water Your Brain-Read, held during this summer’s Thursday Night on Main.

Kathy Meyer-Blum spearheaded the book exchange program held at Thursday Night on Main.

“This has been a great project,” said Blum. “This is the second year participating in Thursday Night on Main festivities and it has gotten hundreds of books in the hands of children over the summer months.”

Blum said that it would not have been possible to make this happen without being awarded the TRIFECTA Foundation grant in April of 2014, the support of the I-S Chamber of Commerce, and a donation from the Iola Lioness Club.

“I applied for a grant from Tauscher’s Reading Initiative for Every Child to Achieve Foundation (TRIFECTA),” said Blum. “This is a foundation created by Green Bay Packer Mark Tauscher and promotes literacy for children in Wisconsin. That paired with the dedicated help of staff and community members from I-S, area children are getting excited about reading.”

According to Blum, I-S Elementary principal Tess Wojcik asked if she would be willing to volunteer her time to coordinate and manage the Little Free Library as well.

“The funding for the first Little Free Library came from the Parent Teacher Organization,” said Blum. “I was happy to volunteer and have another successful literacy program for our communities.”

She said that the Little Libraries are not just for students, but for everyone.

“Anyone who wants a book to read can use it,” she said. “It is a vehicle for getting books to people.”

Wojcik agrees.

“Anything that gets books into the hands of students or adults is a good thing,” Wojcik said. “So if placing books out in the community gets students to read and think, that is all that matters.”

The first Little Free Library has been placed in front of Sentry Foods in Iola and has truly been a community effort.

“This came into existence with the coordination and donations of my people’s time and efforts,” said Blum. “Students James Smith and Kassandra Stevens, under the direction of shop teacher Chad Gagas, designed and built the first two little libraries. Specifically, the one at Sentry Foods, was weatherized by Doug Wojcik and me, Jill Willems and her students decorated it, Greg Blum built and donated the base, Doug Kulinski donated the location and Mike Blum delivered it and set it up. It’s truly a community effort.”

So how does it work?

“It’s really quite simple,” said Blum. “You take a book, read it and then return it when you are done. It’s a free book exchange for people of all ages. It is a self-sustaining library.”

Blum noted that additional Little Libraries are in the works. It takes one semester for the students to build the library.

“I just delivered a second library, sponsored by Tom Opperman, to be put at the Iola Winter Sports Club,” said Blum. “And a third one, sponsored by Harbridge Fired Arts, will be placed at Silver Lake Lanes in Scandinavia.”

With people having busy schedules, placing little libraries around the community makes it easier to get books in their hands.

Iola-Scandinavia Elementary student Hailey Johnson agrees.

“I think it’s neat that I can get a book when I come to the grocery store,” she said.
Six-year-old Jayden Ridge agrees.

“There was a shark book and a car book,” he said. “I am getting a new one every time I come here.”

The cost of building the Little Libraries is $30. The cost of the base varies.

Blum would like to see additional libraries placed throughout the communities.

Anyone wishing to make a donation or requiring help setting up their own Little Free Library can contact Kathy Meyer-Blum at the I-S Elementary School or at [email protected].

Scroll to Top