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Bringing Books to the Block: A Librarian's Journey to My Students' Front Door

Ebonie L. Cleaves, Freedom Middle School

On a hot pink piece of paper, pinned right next to a picture of my sons at my cubicle, is the motto I created for myself when I took my first media specialist position in 2019. It's nothing too profound but it has shaped my career and guided my work at Freedom every day, "It's not enough for the community to come to the school, the school MUST go into the community". 

School libraries have long been sanctuaries of learning, stocked with stories and resources waiting to ignite young minds. But in our digital world, it is imperative that their role expands beyond the four walls called school. Community outreach, spearheaded by passionate school librarians and backed by generous donors and excited volunteers, is the key to ensuring every child has a chance to be swept away by the magic of a book anytime! 

I'm usually met with more questions than congratulations when I share the news of another successful community book giveaway. When people think of community activists, boots on the ground changemakers, the school librarian rarely comes to mind. We have to change the narrative that school librarians are just custodians of books; we're literacy champions, research gurus, and most importantly, allies in a child's learning journey-be it at the school or in the school community. Our expertise shouldn't be confined to the school walls. Community outreach allows us to extend our reach and ensure books become a tangible presence in every home. Imagine storytime sessions at local parks, book donations to families in need, or workshops for parents on fostering a love of reading. These initiatives bridge the gap between school and home, creating a united village where reading becomes a shared passion.

The benefits of having books in every home are immeasurable but not everyone has a bookshelf overflowing with adventure. Some families lack resources, others face literacy challenges, and for some, like at my school, English may not be their first language. That's where we come in. Community outreach isn't just about giving books – it's about building bridges. It's about creating a community where parents and children, educators and neighbors, come together to celebrate the power of stories. It's about ensuring every child has the chance to discover the magic within the pages of a book, a magic that can light their path and shape their dreams.

 Reading stimulates young minds, expands vocabulary, and ignites curiosity. It fosters empathy, promotes critical thinking, and opens doors to new worlds. We all know that there's a link between regular reading and academic success. By ensuring this gift is within reach of every child, we're laying the foundation for a brighter future.

So, let's open the doors of our school libraries wide. Let's be the champions of literacy beyond the classroom walls. Let's build bridges of books, one story at a time, and ensure every home becomes a haven for learning and imagination. 

See ya on the block! 

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