A group of fifth-graders from Allatoona Elementary School want to spread their love of reading to kids who may not have books of their own.
The 14-member Junior Beta Club established a lending library at the Allatoona Resource Center on Glade Road in Acworth to loan books to kids who don’t have books at home or have access to a library.
More than 300 books donated by the American Association of University Women, teachers and members of the community sit on three new bookcases donated by Russell Ventures.
“As a reading teacher, I believe literacy is very important,” said fourth-grade teacher Becky Woolsey, who also teaches science and social studies.
“Allatoona has some of the lowest test scores in the county, and many of our students do not have books at home. Our students have access to our school’s library but often can’t check books out if they have outstanding fines, often through no fault of their own, i.e. lunch charges, ASP fees or lost books. Many teachers at [Allatoona] allow students to borrow books from their own libraries they have accumulated over their years of teaching. I remembered reading about a teacher at Adairsville Elementary who started a mobile library, and the idea blossomed from there.”
The resource center was chosen to house the library because of its location.
“The ARC is the newest center of our community, and students have easy access to it,” Woolsey said. “The nearest library to our school is the Cartersville branch. Libraries require a card to check out books, and many of our students don’t have access to the library. I contacted [ARC Site Coordinator] Patrick Nelson at the beginning of the school year about this idea, and he was definitely on board. We want to spread the news out into the community that there is another way to access books, at no cost and no need for a library card.”
“We were so excited to have the Beta Club come and put together the library for us,” Nelson said. “We want to offer every opportunity that we can for children and adults, and this is a great addition to the programs we are providing to the residents. The kids in the Beta Club are great, and they have been so excited about getting the library put together and open for people to use. Their enthusiasm and the work they have done alone makes having it here worthwhile.”
The kids “deserve all the praise,” he added.
Nelson also said the library is an extension of services for residents who come to the ARC.
“We have so many youth taking advantage of having the gym in the area to come and play after school, and we want the ARC to be a place they can come and have a lot of different options of things to do, and the library is a great addition,” he said. “Also, while parents are here receiving help, the children can go check out a book and read it here or take it with them. The library is on the honor system, and we simply ask that they bring it back when they are finished reading it.”
Beta Club President Nicolas Hooge said club members started the library “to give kids the chance to read.”
“The nearest library is in Cartersville, and some kids may not have a way to get there or a library card,” he said. “We wanted to open a library for the public use, and we wanted it to influence kids and other people to read more. Kids need to read so their academic experience can get better.”
Club member Aedan Barker wants kids to spend their time on worthwhile pursuits.
"Reading is important,” he said. “We hope this will help kids be more interested in reading rather than wasting their time on video games. Reading has started many passions in me. One is astronomy. I really didn’t care much for stars until I read a few books about astronomy.”
While most of the books were donated by AAUW after its annual book sale at the Rose Lawn Festival, about 50 of them came from Woolsey’s personal library.
“I had also begged my friends to give me any books their children were not using anymore,” she added.
The fiction and nonfiction books currently on the shelves are appropriate for elementary-age children, but “we hope to expand to include Spanish fiction and nonfiction and books for older students and even adults,” Woolsey said.
“We have picture books, seasonal books, chapter books for young readers and many nonfiction sports and geographic books,” she said.
A sign has been posted over the shelves to explain the Beta Club’s mission:
“This lending library is a partnership between Allatoona Elementary’s Junior Beta Club and the Allatoona Resource Center. Most of the books in this lending library were donated by the AAUW (American Association of University Women). The shelves were donated by Russell Ventures.
“The first lending library was opened by Benjamin Franklin. It is for the public use. This library is based on a trust system, which means any book you take, we will trust you to return it. We hope you take this opportunity to read more books. If you have any books to share, you can add them to our library.”
“... We know that some may never be returned,” Woolsey said.
The club celebrated at a grand opening of the library Wednesday afternoon, where Nicolas announced the official opening and thanked the AAUW, Nelson and Russell Ventures for their contributions.
“The grand opening was fantastic,” Woolsey said. “We had very excited students, parents, guests and the co-sponsors of the Junior Beta Club — Thanh Noel, fourth-grade ELA [English/language arts], science and social studies teacher, and myself.”
Club members will monitor the library and figure out ways to increase the number of books in the future.
“As books are coming in and going out, the Beta Club plans on revisiting the ARC periodically to maintain some organization of the books,” Woolsey said. “... Two of the shelves are completely full, but the third shelf is pretty bare.”
“I expect it to grow because we are going to set up donation boxes at our school for books,” Nicolas said. “We also plan to get more shelving.”