The 4-H Council Builds Little Free Libraries in Calhoun County
“I wish every young person could have the experience of being part of a service-learning project,” says Kathy Fischer, Calhoun County 4-H Program Coordinator. She has watched many young people plan and learn through projects that impact the community and the giver with long-term benefits.
“Planning and carrying out a service-learning project is hard work, but it is worth it,” says Macey, youth President of the Calhoun County 4-H Council.
Macey of the youth Calhoun County, Michigan, 4-H Council wanted to do something fun to introduce other kids to the positive aspects of 4-H, something she has been part of and loved for years. The Council goals for the project include recruiting new 4-H members and giving back to the community. As a group, they discussed many ideas, and when someone suggested putting up Little Free Libraries around the county, the idea hit a sweet spot for several reasons.
- A Little Free Library provides an opportunity to promote literacy for kids and adults across the community. Literacy has been a focus of 4-H fundraising for years, and they have funds to put some books in the finished libraries.
- The design for their libraries has a living roof because 4-H is associated with farming and life skills. Choosing the right plants and the elements to grow successfully on the small roof will involve learning and careful analysis of growing conditions.
- The libraries provide lots of opportunities to involve people all over the community: 1) The organizers must communicate with school and township boards to get permission to build the libraries around town. 2) Many community members get involved by donating wood scraps so the project is both environmentally and economically friendly. 3) Children and adults of all ages get involved and learn about 4-H – by helping to build a library, by borrowing and donating books, and/or through watching literacy grow in every neighborhood.
Kathy and Macey agree that organizing a service-learning project is a more challenging and more impactful experience than showing up to a volunteer experience. Planning the project involves leadership, collaboration, communication, and problem solving. The people involved get to know their community and their own potential through the joy and challenge of giving back to their community, something that sets them up for lifelong skills and community engagement.
If you live in Calhoun County, watch for the libraries going up in July and August. If you live anywhere else, you may want to lead your own Little Free Library project in your county or neighborhood. We’ll be following up with photos and reflections next month.
Have you ever picked up or dropped off a book in a Little Free Library? What was that experience like for you?