Brainerd Junior Jaycees build Little Free Library for YMCA
The Brainerd Junior Jaycees built a Little Free Library that will be installed Jan. 17 at the Brainerd Family YMCA. The project is intended for the Junior Jaycees, ages 7 to 17, to create and execute a plan, and develop team and leadership skills while serving the YMCA, a youth-focused nonprofit.
BRAINERD — Children looking for something to read can soon simply head to the Brainerd Family YMCA.
The Brainerd Junior Jaycees built a Little Free Library that will be installed at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, outside the main entrance of the youth-focused nonprofit at Oak and South Sixth streets.
“The project is intended to help these teens build and execute a plan, and develop team and leadership skills throughout the process,” said Brainerd Family YMCA CEO Shane Riffle.
The Brainerd Junior Jaycees is a group of young individuals from the ages of 7 to 17 who help give back to the community, according to Toni Bieser, a Brainerd Junior Jaycees liaison who works at Hy-Tec Construction.
“The youth were trying to decide what the community needed or what they thought would be good. And so they decided to come up with a Little Library … but they wanted to dedicate the focus more towards youth,” Bieser said of the group’s plan to work with the nonprofit.
The Minnesota Jaycees convened its annual convention Saturday, Jan. 15. The Brainerd Junior Jaycees’ project was recognized by the state organization with its “Community Project of the Year” award and the Brainerd chapter was named “Junior Jaycee Chapter of the Year.”
“Early literacy is absolutely vital and determines the progress that children make in school and determines the course of the rest of their lives, to put it mildly,” said Brainerd Public Library Manager Laurel Hall.
A Little Free Library is a free book-sharing box located in neighborhoods or underserved communities where anyone may take a book or share a book.
“Little Free Libraries are excellent resources for people within their neighborhoods. They provide a resource for people of all ages and especially are enriching for neighborhoods to be able to share in the love of books for all ages,” Hall said.
Users of a traditional Little Free Library do not need to share a book by leaving one in the book-sharing box in order to take one but are encouraged to do so.
“We really hope that the kids that go to the YMCA can use these books because we intentionally made this library so that kids would be able to take the books for free,” said Sean Baumann, a Brainerd Junior Jaycees member.
There are almost 45 members of the Brainerd Junior Jaycees, according to Baumann. The Brainerd Junior Jaycees won a number of national awards at last year’s annual convention.
“Our chapter of the Brainerd Junior Jaycees is actually working with a chapter in Cochin, India, … and so we were doing a book drive,” Baumann said. “But India went into a really bad COVID lockdown … and we had all these books.”
Little Free Libraries are excellent resources for people within their neighborhoods.
Little Free Library book-sharing boxes are “open seven days a week, 24 hours a day and are freely accessible to all, removing barriers to book access,” according to the Hudson, Wisconsin-based nonprofit.
“I think we had a total of, I'd say, probably 15 to 16 kids involved in the building of this entire project throughout the last few months,” Baumann said of the Brainerd Junior Jaycees Little Free Library, which took about 20 hours to build.
Bieser said, “They found the plans for it, they created a budget. … They bought the materials, they put it all together. They communicated with a couple of different entities that might be willing to house this Little Library and put it next to their business, and the YMCA said ‘yes.’”
Hy-Tec Construction of Brainerd donated almost $300 in rebates at Menards to the Brainerd Junior Jaycees to help purchase construction materials for the project, which was built at Baumann’s house.
“We got everything from Menards and we ended up printing off the instructions for this project,” Baumann said.
Hall said, “Any way that our community can get more involved with early literacy is a win for us.”
Little Free Libraries at 22 Juniper St., 804 Oak St., and 1605 Mary St. in Brainerd are registered with the Little Free Library website, but there are also unregistered ones around Gregory Park.
“I think that all kids should have an opportunity to be able to read books,” said Holly Holm, a destination services specialist with Visit Brainerd. “I was a big reader as a kid. I enjoyed reading.”
Holm volunteered to restock Brainerd Little Free Libraries with donated books from Friends of the Brainerd Public Library. She also volunteers her time by bringing her 7-year-old English bulldog, Georgia, to Harrison Elementary School so the students can read aloud to the canine.
"It makes them more comfortable reading out loud to a dog versus getting nervous and doing it in front of people,“ Holm said. “My goal was to get kids to be comfortable reading out loud. I struggled with that as a kid as well.”
There are more than 100,000 Little Free Libraries in more than 100 countries with 42 million books shared annually, according to the Little Free Library website.
“We've set it up so that most kids would be able to just take one and they could keep it, and we'd have a stream of books coming in so it would be more of a continuous book drive to keep this filled,” Baumann said of the Little Free Library at the YMCA.
The Brainerd High School senior said the Junior Jaycees group has been in discussions with area schools, too, to construct another Little Free Library.
“It was definitely an idea that we really thought would be a valuable contribution in the future,” Baumann said.
Top 5 children’s books at the Brainerd Public Library
Top 5 children’s books at the Brainerd Public Library
- “T. Rexes Can’t Tie Their Shoes” by Anna Lazowski.
- “We Are the Dinosaurs” by Laurie Berkner.
- “Worm Loves Worm” by J. J. Austrian.
- “The Complete Brambly Hedge” by Jill Barklem.
- “Pig the Pug” by Aaron Blabey.
Source: Brainerd Public Library.