Brandywine schools launch pop-up library

NILES – Midday Tuesday, students on summer break entered door 15 of Brandywine Elementary School to see a familiar face, kindergarten teacher Sara Gleason. Though Gleason teaches at Merritt Elementary School, she recognized students as they came through the doors with their parents, greeting them excitedly and asking how their summer was starting. When a family with three students came through the doors, new to the Brandywine Community Schools district, her energy was no different in welcoming them, learning their names and helping them pick out a couple of books each to take home to read over the summer.

Gleason was manning the first Brandywine Community Schools Summer Pop Up Library from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. Each Tuesday through Aug. 3, students enrolled at Brandywine and Merritt Elementary School who have completed kindergarten through third grade can come choose two books to take home. Students can visit each Tuesday and choose two more books to read.

“I was given information of the reading levels for all the kids in the two elementary buildings, so I am trying to guide them as to where their reading levels are,” Gleason said of the books organized from early readers to more advanced elementary grade levels.

About an hour into the pop up, Gleason said she had had about two dozen students come choose books.

She wanted to be a part of the pop-up libraries as a way to be a constant, friendly face with the students through the summer. She said that trust builds excitement for them to choose a book each time.

During the 2020 shutdowns from March to June, Gleason helped serve lunches to students for the same reason.

“I felt it was important for our kids to have a face that they saw every week,” she said. “I understood from last year doing that, being a familiar face through the summer, that was something I needed to do as well this summer to help those kids.”

She believes that stability is important for children.

“It’s just an important thing to children. They need the support,” Gleason said. “With COVID, even, our students have fallen behind in those three months we lost last year. We have to keep working with them and giving them books to enjoy.”

The pop-up library will be a three-year program funded by the Berrien County Great Start Collaborative, which in partnership with the United Way, raised funds from multiple sources in the community to support the program.

“We have kids who were invited to summer school and are attending, we also have a select group of kids we will be visiting and taking books to their homes to drop books off, and then the pop-up library opportunity where anybody can stop by and each kid gets to pick now books to add to their libraries at home,” said Merritt Elementary School Principal Matt Severin. “It just so happens to coincide with Meet Up and Eat Up.”

The Pop-Up Library meets on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It is purposely the same time at Brandywine Elementary School as the Meet Up and Eat Up program, which provides grab-n-go meals and breakfast bags 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday from June 21 to Aug. 12.

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