Nestled outside of Maysville Elementary School sit three benches that form a horseshoe. A small gaggle of third graders spread themselves among the benches and settle in for story time. Across from them is a rocking chair, currently occupied by their teacher, that faces the benches for any storyteller to sit and read aloud to eager students. In the short distance, a wooden structure in the shape of a house stands with a small plaque that reads: “Lending Library – the best books are shared. Give a book, take a book.”
Maysville Elementary School’s “Reading Nooks” project was one of five recipients of The Muskingum County Community Foundation’s Fall Grant Competition in 2022. Two outdoor reading nooks and lending libraries were recently installed on the campus. The spaces are open for the public to enjoy and participate, especially to exchange books for others to read.
According to Maysville Literacy Coach Stephanie Hill, the ultimate goal of the project was to promote literacy in the school district and make reading fun for anyone of any age.
“We’re from a community that doesn’t read as much as we would like,” said Hill. “Lots of our kids don’t have books at home, outside of the RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) books that get sent home.”
Maysville is also home to several low-income families, which makes advocating for literacy a bigger challenge. According to a study conducted by Hart and Risley, an average child in a higher-income family will experience forty-five million words by the time they are four years old, whereas an average child from a lower-income family will hear only thirteen million words. Not only does this demonstrate the economic impact illiteracy has on families, but it also creates a continuous cycle of low literacy rates.
Hill hoped to change that through the reading nooks and ignite enthusiasm for reading for everyone.
“We had this space, and it wasn’t really being used for anything, so it’s been something I’d hoped for several years,” said Hill. “But financially, for the school to invest in that, the money has just gone other places.”
The MCCF Fall Grant Competition is open to any nonprofit organization in Muskingum County with capital improvement projects, and Hill jumped on the chance to fulfill her vision.
“When I saw the grant was available, I thought maybe this was an opportunity to purchase some of these things, then things just aligned.”
Once the grant was awarded, Maysville went to work on constructing the reading nooks to be ready for spring 2023. Hill says the community has been very receptive to the addition of the nooks and lending libraries.
“The kids are more and more excited about coming here,” she added.
The third graders would agree.
“It’s very peaceful here to read books,” remarked one student.
“You can bring your friends here,” exclaimed another.
“You could come here in the summer with your family, read books, and have a picnic,” a third student chimed.
That’s the beauty of having an outdoor reading place that’s open year-round, Hill believes. And because of the funding awarded from MCCF, her dream has become a reality.
“With the grant, the students wouldn’t have this area, and families wouldn’t be able to enjoy it outside the school day either.”