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Bright red bookshelf project makes free books available for kids

The Bright Red Bookshelf at the Bay Breeze Laundromat in Two Harbors awaits young readers. Photo by Tammy François

You may have seen them--bright red shelves holding kids' books in Silver Bay, Two Harbors and Beaver Bay. They're in banks, laundromats and county services buildings and they're part of an effort to make books available to preschoolers throughout Lake County.

The idea for the book shelves originated in Itasca County as part of Invest Early, an initiative supported by the Blandin Foundation to ensure that under-served children receive early childhood education opportunities--infant and toddler care, pre-school and wrap- around programming to support families with special needs. Early access to books was seen as a way to encourage the development of literacy skills at home. The idea resonated with early childhood professionals on the North Shore, too.

"Children learn from the book's content as well as rhyming, letters and letter sounds," said Kim Lenski, Lake Superior School District Early Childhood Coordinator, " following up with questions helps children recall events and can inspire further discussion and learning."

In addition to book shelves, the sites will soon include red donation bins to make it more convenient for people to drop off books for the Bright Red Book Shelf project.

"We're looking for gently used books for young children ages birth kindergarten. We accept soft cover, hard cover and board books," Lenski said.

The books will be collected by a volunteer who will sort them and place a Project Read sticker on the cover. They will then be distributed among the sites. Books will be received at two locations until the red bins are in place.

"Currently books can be dropped off at either the Two Harbors or William Kelley Community Education office," said Chris Langenbrunner, the district's community education director.

Introducing books to children at an early age can have life- long benefits and it's never too soon, or too late to start.

"Reading together is so important for early literacy. Reading together is an important bonding time as well as a great way to expand vocabulary and knowledge," said Lenski.

Look for a Bright Red Book Shelf and red donation bin at these locations:

• Bay Breeze Laundry in Two Harbors

• The Motherload Laundromat in Beaver Bay

• Lake County Services offices in Two Harbors and Silver Bay

• Two Harbors Federal Credit Union