Visitors to Maple Grade School may have noticed a new addition near the school’s entrance this year.
Maple first grade teacher Tara Fares oversaw the construction and installation of a Little Free Library near the start of the year and it’s turned out to be a popular new attraction at the school.
Fares has been teaching for over 20 years and saw the little free library as another way to get literature into people’s hands.
“Books are a passion,” she said. “It gives everyone an opportunity.”
The library isn’t just for students at Maple. It’s open to anyone in the community and offers a selection of books for different age groups with the books for adults on the top shelf and the books for younger readers on the bottom two shelves.
Fares has been glad to see people using the little library, pointing to grandparents who visit the library with their grandchildren and sit on the bench beside it to read.
The little free library has appealed to people with no connection to the school as well.
Fares said she was crying with joy when she saw two community members stop by the school just to borrow a few books.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “I saw two gentlemen, about a week and a half ago, come around, borrowed two books and left. That’s all they came for. I was in my classroom crying when I saw that. I thought ‘This is amazing.’ I can’t wait to see if they come back.”
Fares relishes seeing the light on people’s faces when they just take the time to sit and read for a bit.
“I’ve seen grandparents just sit and spend time and read and enjoy,” she said. “Just the light on their face when they read has been a joy to see.”
Fares wants more community members to take advantage of the little library.
“I’m hoping the community will be more apt to come and visit,” she said.
Fares said it’s there to help people who aren’t in school any more and might not be able to make it to the Hoopeston Public Library during their open hours.
As for how Maple students have reacted to it, Fares said her students have loved the little free library.
One student in particular has been a big fan of it.
“He comes every day,” she said. “He cannot wait to get of school so he can come see what I’ve put in.”
Fares said the student has even started to help her fill cabinets.
Fares has even taken her students outside a few times to sit around it and read together.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said.
As for how the books for the little library are chosen, Fares said she takes suggestions and has asked many of the staff and students what kinds of books they’d like to see.
“There’s a variety of different types of reading,” she said.
There’s also a guestbook in one of the cabinets for people to write down what they’d like to read or what book they enjoyed reading the most from it.
Fares said the return rate has been amazing and pointed to the books for the youngest age group as the most popular in terms of returns. She said the middle age group of books was the most popular in terms of books being borrowed.
Fares said she’d had more than 30 books borrowed and she plans to keep the selection varied as the year goes on.
“I’m going to try and alter them at least once a month so they’re not always the same titles,” she said.
Fares said this will also give a chance to gauge interest in what types of books are popular and which are not.
Fares has had this project on her mind for the past few years and it grew into something of a family project when she decided to move forward with it.
Her husband and her father-in-law both put a lot of work into the project, Fares said, after she gave them her ideas for it.
“They spent all summer on this,” she said.
Fares said her daughter also helped to put it together and paint it and that her mother-in-law and niece also chipped into help with painting it.
“It’s been a huge family project,” she said.
Fares said Maple’s custodians installed it after Maple Principal Suzi Root approved it. The landscaping for it was donated by Chad Thomas of C&D Improvements. Dan DeNeal of Craftsmen Printing provided the stamp for each of the books in the little free library.
“I can’t thank them enough,” she said.
Root praised Fares and her family for their work on the little library during the September Hoopeston Area Board of Education meeting and said she felt it was a great addition to the school.
Fares said the library was set up shortly before Labor Day Weekend so it was available for the National Sweetcorn Festival.
Fares is taking donations for the little free library and has received some already this year.
Each book available through the little free library is stamped that it is always a gift and never for sale as a way of ensuring that people know it’s meant to go on.
“It’s a way of paying it forward,” she said. “Books are meant to be gifts.”