A family’s lack of financial resources can result in an absence of supervision and an ability to help their children excel in school. Low...
From left Sanai, Asia, Janeira and Jada check out their little library that was provided by Second Baptist Church for the Grand Oaks community.

From left Sanai, Asia, Janeira and Jada check out their little library that was provided by Second Baptist Church for the Grand Oaks community.

A family’s lack of financial resources can result in an absence of supervision and an ability to help their children excel in school. Low income equals low test scores. It is not only income that matters; it could be any number of things. But all students need to stay connected to learning during summer vacation while not losing interest or connection to reading specifically.
Maryann Mraz, teacher and writer for PBS, wrote, “I know my students covered important reading skills last school year, but I still need to spend so much time reviewing those same skills at the start of the new school year.”

Bermuda District School Board member Carrie Coyner agrees, and is involved in a program to help: “The Chesterfield STAR [Summer Time Access to Reading] initiative began last year in an effort to increase access to books for all students during the summer when many students experience ‘summer slide,’” she said. “Students experience learning loss if they do not read during the summer; in fact, most students lose about two months of grade level reading, and low-income students are most often impacted by this summer slide because they have less access to educational opportunities than their middle and upper income classmates.”

STAR reaches out to volunteers to built or reuse materials for tiny libraries which are place near lower income residential areas or schools.

“I actually built one for Hopkins Elementary School last summer and it’s still in use,” said Dale District School Board member John Erbach. “I have to do some maintenance on it but I expect it will continue this summer. I just heard that the Sheriff’s Office will sponsor one at Jacobs and I’m assisting Carrie [Coyner] to find someone to do the same at Salem [Elmentary].”

Chesterfield STAR reached out to Title I elementary school principals and asked them to identify communities that would benefit from increased access to books. Title I is the U.S. government’s largest assistance program for schools, putting federal money into schools that have a high percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Title I began in 1965 as Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Act and was reauthorizedin 2001 in the No Child Left Behind Act.

Since the success of the program last year, this year STAR has grown to just north of 40 locations. One location that has been extremely successful is the Bensley Community Center.

“I think we distributed somewhere between 300 and 400 books in the last year, and it’s not just kids who pick up books,; parents will take a book and will sit on bench in the park and read,” said David Potter, who manages the community center there. “People are surprised when they see the little library and ask what it is. The next day they bring back a pile of books, and some of them are purchased.”

Potter says there is no vandalism or graffiti on the little libraries. People paint the back of the dumpster but leave the libraries alone.

Potter said he remembers that when he was in elementary school, the first three months we were making up for what we forgot over the summer.

“In terms of preventing summer learning loss for all of our students-specifically those most at risk, the STAR program has been successful as it meets the needs of specific students while also fostering a culture of literacy in communities who would otherwise not have access,” said Amelia Bartilotti, Bellwood Elementary School teacher and Communities In Schools (CIS) site coordinator . “Initially installed and maintained by STAR partners, many residents living in these communities have stepped forward as stewards of their libraries – creating a place where they can share their books.”

Principals identified over 45 communities, and the STAR program worked to find groups to adopt little libraries in these communities. Thirty-six communities are currently adopted and ready to start the summer reading program. Many apartment complexes have provided book shelves within the community building for the libraries, and other groups have built little libraries and installed them within their communities.

The STAR program consists of installing a little library, stocking it with books, keeping it stocked throughout the summer, and hosting three reading parties for the community on June 14, July 12 and August 2 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. A community reading party is a way to bring a summer “vacation” opportunity to families, hand-out additional books, enjoy lemonade, or popsicles and have a great time reading, said Coyner.

Chester Christian Church, located at 4330 Curtis St., in Chester, is serving as the stockroom for books for the summer program. Coyner said, “New or gently-used books that you would want your own children or grandchildren to read, not books you want to get rid of, can be dropped them off at the church Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Our STAR partners are able to go and switch out books thanks to book donations to the book stockroom.”

All neighborhoods in Chesterfield County are encouraged to start their own little library as access to reading. It is important for every child and little libraries are great way to share and exchange books when you can’t get to your public library. You can find lots of great plans to build a library online. Install your library and notify the goup of your location via the Chesterfield STAR Facebook page or via email at ce_coyner@ccpsnet.net , and we will add your location to the school list so that kids in your area know where to go for books.

Want to learn more? Email Carrie Coyner at ce_coyner@ccpsnet.net or call (804) 536-5742.


Shady Hill/Masonettes
Bensley Community Center
Winchester Green
Crystal Lakes Townhomes

Bellwood Elementary

Wayside Apartments
Amber Leaves
Manchester YMCA

Falling Creek Elementary/Middle
South Point Landing Apts

Ettrick Elementary

Ivey UMC

Beulah UMC

Colonial Ridge

Reams Elementary
North Arch Village Apartments

Mallard Cove

Harbour East
Bermuda Estates
Westover Farms

Matoaca Middle School

Amazing Grace World Fellowship
Hening Elementary School

Grand Oaks
River Forest Apartments

Ashton Creek/Hyde Park

Salem Elementary

Hopkins Elementary

Suburban Village
Midlothian YMCA

Sunrise Apartments
Chesterfield Village Apartments

Clover Leaf Apartments
Manchester YMCA
Swift Creek YMCA