In Florida, commendable parenting is afoot. I caught wind of something unusual and wonderful: a library created to motivate kids to read nonfiction. I caught up with Robin MacDonald, the library director:
What is the Ralphy Memorial Nonfiction Library?
It is our own private children’s nonfiction library that we created in our playroom and dedicated to our beloved dog, Ralphy, who passed away last year. [MTN: Obviously I love this idea and hope it catches on in playrooms everywhere.]
The grand opening was great! We had 18 kids, 5 teachers, and 12 [other] adults. Neighborhood friends and families are welcome!
What inspired the library?
Abbey, who is in 3rd grade, loves to read, but tends to gravitate toward fiction. Her brother, Jake, is in kindergarten and is just developing his love of reading. I thought it would be wise to expand their interests. Abbey has to take a big reading test at the end of this school year and part of it includes reading different passages and answering questions. Some of those passages are going to be nonfiction and I didn’t want her to be unfamiliar with that type of writing. I love to read as well and recently started The Book Whisperer, which I think has brilliant ideas about children and reading.
How did your kids react when you created it?
They love it! We got bean bag chairs and a new bookshelf and tried to create a space that is comfortable.
What has been their role in the creation?
They decided on the name and made the sign. They have picked out a lot of the titles. We have visited several bookstores (new and used) looking for a variety of titles and they included their own collections as well.
We have labeled all of the books with their AR test number and level and every book has its own envelope and card (old school library system). They had to glue all of the envelopes inside the front covers. They write each library card out for “members” and hand-stamp the due date.
Also, they decided to have a section (unorganized box) for the fiction that we have finished with; it’s called “Free to Good Homes.” They decided on a 10-cent fine for late books and a two-week checkout period.
Do they voluntarily go to this library?
Yes, they love to visit their own library. It has become a competition of sorts between Abbey and Jake as to who has checked out and read the most books.
How many circulating titles do you have?
We have 106 titles, including several of yours and a couple of Shana Corey’s (Girl Scout stories tend to rank highly here). We have all levels from kindergarten to 6th grade.
What titles have been the biggest hits so far?
Anything about dogs or dolphins have been popular.
If people want to donate books to the library, how should they proceed?
We love donations! They can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will give them our address. In return, they will receive a handwritten thank-you note and a library card.