It’s summer. In any other school year, this would be the time teachers and school administrators worry about the dreaded “summer slide,” the three-month gap when children are more likely to be outside playing or watching TV than catching up on their reading lists. However, this year has brought more changes and challenges than the usual summer break. With area schools closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students have been participating in distance-learning from their homes. The usual three-month gap seems more like a six-month gap.
One Long County resident and teacher of 10 years decided not to stand idly by while her neighborhood children slid into the “coronavirus slide,” as researchers at Yale University and the University of Connecticut have referenced in connection to this unprecedented shift in education.
Twonzetta Nesbitt-Samuel, an educator for over 10 years, felt a calling in her heart to give back to the children of her community at Crawford subdivision.
“With public and school libraries closed, children haven’t had as much access to books. I thought that there had to be some way to combat the summer slide,” Samuel said.
In response, she asked her neighbors in a Facebook post to help her build and stock a “Little Library,” a birdhouse-like box with a Plexiglas window and secure door perched on a pedestal. Samuel said the response was just as she hoped. Neighbors donated money, supplies, books, man-hours and gardening to see the structure built and displayed at a pond in the subdivision.
However, that was not enough for Samuel who runs her own education consulting business called Legacy in the Making, LLC. She asked Long County High School 2020 graduate Destina Cabrera to put her painting skills to use and make the library a bright spot in the community.
“I’ve been painting regularly throughout high school,” Cabrera said. “My mom saw Ms. Twonzetta’s Facebook post and encouraged me to get involved. I’m glad I did. We talked about designs, and it makes the library pop.”
“We’re responsible for mentoring the younger generations and pouring what we know into them so they can fulfill their purpose and calling,” Samuel said. “I wanted this Little Library to be about more than what we adults can do for the kids, and give them a chance to make it their own.”
On Saturday, June 13, the Little Library was installed and stocked with books. The neighborhood was invited to stop by or drive by and grab a hot dog and pre-packed goodie bag to celebrate the new addition while following social distancing guidelines. All of the food was donated by neighbors, as well, and because of the hard work of a retired couple in the neighborhood, the pond looked photo-ready.
Trudy Carter and her husband have been living in the neighborhood for years. With grown children, they enjoy helping keep the pond looking its best by mowing, removing dead plants and weeds, and keeping it stocked with fish for the neighborhood children. Carter said, “We’ve always had an interest in the children of this neighborhood, so it was natural to help Twonzetta with this project.”
There are rules for the Little Library. Borrowers must wash or sanitize their hands before taking a book and are asked to stay home if feeling unwell. A book return will allow the books to be sanitized before being returned to the library, and a neighborhood Amazon book list will ensure the library remains stocked with age-appropriate books as the donated books wear out.
Through her business, Samuel is hoping to apply and receive grants to keep the library stocked and maintained.
From the neighborhood response, Samuel is confident the Little Library will have a big impact on the children of Crawford and, as she said, help them combat the summer slide and enter the next school year with confidence.