Posted on September 27, 2016 17:01
Little boxes filled with books are popping up in Jefferson County, and Tracey Geglein hopes this week’s observance of National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week inspires residents to expand this new literacy program.
The Little Free Library program promotes the establishment of these boxes, where anyone, any time of day, can find a book to read for free. The boxes, managed by volunteer “stewards,” can be located in front of residences or public buildings. Books can be borrowed, kept or exchanged for new donations to the libraries.
Two libraries are located on Cragmont Street near Eighth Street and at Hereford Lake, and include books for children and adults.
Geglein, coordinator of the River Valley Reads adult literacy program, an arm of River Valley Resources, said by promoting the nonprofit program, more of the Little Free Libraries will be created, particularly at firehouses and other locations in rural areas, where people may not have the opportunity to visit the two branches of the Jefferson County Public Library in Madison and Hanover.
Those “little” libraries registered through the nonprofit organization at www.LittleFreeLibrary.org, are added to interactive maps, so people can find them wherever they go. Registration requires a one-time fee of $42.50. Geglein said RVR will pay half that fee for anyone in Jefferson County interested in becoming a steward. RVR also will pay for the materials or construction of the first 20 libraries that are requested.
The libraries “are like Red Boxes,” which are outdoor kiosks where people can rent movies 24 hours a day, said Andrew Forrester, director of community relations for the city of Madison. Forrester said the city is “trying to find partners, such as the schools and colleges, (and find) ways to involve different groups” to help get the program rolling.
Additionally, his office also will work with stewards to ensure everyone is abiding by zoning regulations, “especially in the downtown area.”
Forrester said the city also is interested in integrating the program with its America’s Best Cities initiative, possibly adding Little Free Libraries along the trail route on Hatcher Hill or on Mulberry Street.
“It’s all about adult literacy,” Geglein said. “We all deal with the repercussions” of adults who cannot read.
She told of one man she knows who came to her with less than a first-grade reading level and is working as a truck driver.
“That’s scary,” she said. “There are people out there who are walking, talking and breathing, but they aren’t able to fully function in society” because of illiteracy. “They are good at hiding it.”
Statistics show that two-thirds of students who can’t read proficiently by the end of fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school and end up in jail or on welfare, she said, adding that nearly half of all adults in the United States are considered functionally illiterate.
Aside from problems illiteracy can raise for people who work, it also effects them and their families in day-to-day situations, such as being unable to read and follow dosage instructions for medications.
Also, if a parent can’t read, his or her child is unlikely to graduate from high school, she said.
To combat this, RVR offers free adult education classes to prepare students to earn their High School Equivalency diplomas, formerly known as a GED, as well as one-on-one tutoring, college-readiness preparation for people interested in applying to Ivy Tech’s Madison campus, workforce training and vouchers for free childcare for adults who are working or in school.
“All of it is free,” she said, adding that in some cases, enrollees can earn cash for their accomplishments. For instance, an adult earning the HSE “will get $250 on the spot,” she said. Those who sign up for and complete workforce training also will earn $250.
For more information about the Little Free Library program or River Valley Reads, call Geglein at (812) 265-2652, Ext. 977.