WEST CHICAGO – With bright colors, bean bag chairs and plenty of books, the Junior League of Kane and DuPage Counties hopes to create a readers’ paradise at Pioneer Elementary School in West Chicago.
The school will be the first to have part of its library transformed into a library nook as part of the league’s Your Library Nook initiative.
The project will create a comfortable, welcoming place for students to read that features new furniture, shelving, decorations, reading materials and games. It is expected to be completed during the 2014-15 school year.
“We know if you don’t have that place where they can feel safe and curl up with a good book, they’re not going to fall in love with reading,” said Sarah Clark, communications vice president of the Junior League of Kane and DuPage Counties.
Part of a national association, the league is open to women of all ages and provides leadership training and service opportunities.
The focus of the league in Kane and DuPage counties is literacy, Clark said.
For the Your Library Nook initiative, league members wanted to help students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in particular. They looked at schools with the most students in free and reduced lunch programs and determined Pioneer Elementary would be a perfect fit for the project, she said.
At Pioneer Elementary, students are already excited to go to the library, but the idea of increasing that excitement is attractive to school leaders, Principal Gloria Trejo said.
“We want literacy to be an opportunity,” she said. “We want students to see this as an opportunity, not a task.”
Trejo and librarian Robin Harwood have worked closely with the league to develop a plan that fits the needs of the school, Trejo said.
About 93 percent of the school’s students come from low-income households, according to its 2013 Illinois School Report Card.
Many school parents work two jobs to make sure the daily needs of their children are being met, she said.
That makes it especially important for the school to play its part in meeting the literacy needs of its students and providing support to parents for promoting reading at home, Trejo said.
The Your Library Nook project is being funded entirely through donations. Of the $10,000 needed to create the nook, $3,000 has been raised, Clark said.
Part of that support came from the league’s annual Spring Fling event, which many school and district staff members attended.
While the Your Library Nook initiative at Pioneer Elementary will only transform a corner of the library, the league will donate plans for the rest of the library that school leaders can use for any future projects they decide to pursue, Clark said.
The league also will donate reading materials for a few years after the project is completed and participate in the school’s literacy programming for families, such as its Literacy Nights.
Following the project at Pioneer Elementary, league members hope to expand the initiative to other schools in the area, but they also want to continue their relationship with Pioneer staff, whom were phenomenal partners for the project, Clark said.
“They just poured their heart into it, and that’s just been so invigorating for us,” she said.
Visit jlkd.org/nook to donate to the Your Library Nook initiative.