ST. CLAIR SHORES — The public library is a great resource, with thousands of books, media and staff to help you select just what you need.
But what if the library was always open and just down the street?
That’s the concept behind the Little Free Library, a worldwide organization touted as a “take a book, return a book” place for neighbors to gather and enjoy literature together.
And now, St. Clair Shores has its own location in the front yard of a home in the 20000 block of Avalon Street, west of Harper Avenue.
Jennifer Kasprzak said she first saw the Little Free Library concept on Pinterest but didn’t pursue it until her family was camping and found two locations nearby. She and her 15-year-old son, Alyx, checked them out.
Jennifer Kasprzak said her family had only been home for a few days when her son started working on the structure.
Alyx Kasprzak spent an entire weekend shopping, hammering, nailing and painting to construct the cabinet for their library’s books. He then got donations from family, friends and members of their home school co-op to fill the structure with books.
The Little Free Library is now open to anyone who wants to read, he said, and they are welcome to take any book they want — from children’s to adult titles — with the request that at that time or another, they bring another book to fill its slot.
“It’s a good concept,” Alyx Kasprzak said. “Kids can learn to read more, and people don’t read as much as they should. I just thought it would be fun to build. It was a little more work than I thought it was going to be.”
Jennifer Kasprzak said she hopes it will become a neighborhood fixture.
“The economy is hard … so there isn’t (always) the ability to buy new books,” she said. “Everybody that has stopped … they all said we are so sick of our kids misplacing the (public library) books and getting socked with fees.”
Alyx Kasprzak said once passersby figure out the structure isn’t a bird house, they’re excited about the idea.
Ellisa Kobylak, of Roseville, said she brings her two sons, 6-year-old Maxwell and 10-year-old Payton, to a Little Free Library on Buckhannon Street in her city and loves it.
“I think it’s important for all kids to have an opportunity to choose a book,” she said. “To have one in a neighborhood that a child could walk to on their own … it makes them accessible.”
Another nearby Little Free Library is on Beaconsfield Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park.
“I just hope we can get enough donations from books to keep it filled so we don’t have to close it,” Alyx Kasprzak said. “Right now, it’s pretty full.”
Because she home schools two of her sons, Jennifer Kasprzak said it gives them time for different enrichment projects outside of school books.
“It gives them an opportunity to explore their interests,” she said. “I feel they learn more hands-on.
“This is math — he had to measure. To let him produce this building in two days, measuring and dividing and learning to multiply … how many sides can I get out of one sheet of plywood? When they think of homeschooling, they think, ‘Oh, they’re letting them watch TV all day.’ They can do productive things that are still learning.”
Jennifer Kasprzak said they have applied for a charter through www.littlefreelibrary.org, and once that comes through, they’ll be able to get their location on the map. Until then, she said she hopes people will start taking them up on the offer of a free book.
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