By Aida Mallard
Special to the Guardian
Books can be pricey, but thanks to the Book Nook Project, families can have access to books in their neighborhoods with free books they can take home.
The Book Nook is a project of the United Way of North Central Florida to introduce reading in the community. Bookshelves located in various areas and neighborhoods are stocked with gently used books, free for families to take and replenished as needed.
“You just pick up a book and it’s yours to keep,” said Jo-Ann Roberts, Book Nook organizer. “Someone may pick up one of these books and it may change their lives.
She said there are books for children, teens and adults to take as many as they need. Roberts, who also is an assistant with the ReadingPals program, said 200 ReadingPals volunteers are needed for the new school year. She said ReadingPals commit to reading one hour a week, or 25 hours over the school year. For more information, call 352-333-0863.
Roberts said the Book Nook Project is modeled after the Bright Red Bookshelf Project started in Ithaca, New York. She said books, which are placed in accessible areas like school lobbies and community centers, are collected through donations and book drives organized by service groups, church congregations and campus organizations.
* St. Francis House, 413 S. Main St.
* Alachua County jail lobby, 3333 NE 39th Ave.
There are other sites in Gainesville, and 350 books will be provided to the Gainesville Housing Authority to be placed in the housing developments.
Recently, Roberts placed a Book Nook at the Eastside Recreation Center, and right away, it caught the attention of Treszure Moore, 8, and Deshawn “Nick” Johnson, 9, who were at the center for the last day of summer camp.
Treszure said she is happy there are two bookshelves at the center. There’s one for reading books while at the center, and the new one, which will allow her to finish reading her book at home.
“Now you can take the book home if you really want it,” Treszure said. “I can take a book and read it and if I don’t like it, I can bring it back.”
Nick had another plan to use the Book Nook.
“If I don’t have homework, I can come here and get a book from this shelf,” Nick said.
Roberts said the bookshelves are made through a partnership with the Florida Institute for Workforce Innovation Inc., sponsor of Project YouthBuild, a program that provides education and job training for eligible youth ages 16-24.
Jessica Baker, director of development and special projects at Workforce Innovation, said recycled materials such as wood pallets and reclaimed wood are used to make the bookshelves for the Book Nook program.
“The Book Nook is a great community resource,” Baker said. “We’re always looking to provide service to the community.”
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