Written by Juanita Fox
Every Wednesday morning, from early June through late August, Barbara Masho welcomed beaming neighborhood children into the little library she and volunteers created in the Cedar Grove Presbyterian Church on Division Highway in East Earl. As each child skipped, ran or walked through the church doors just before 10am, she greeted them by name with a big hug and a smile.
The inspiration for these joy-filled Wednesday mornings came in a roundabout way. In early 2016, Masho’s daughter Denise asked her father, Dick, if he could build a bookshelf that she could put in her front yard. Denise’s vision? To create a little library where she could share books with the children in her West Chester neighborhood.
Later that summer Masho noticed her church nursery also had potential for a little library. She approached her pastor, Krisana Poontajak, who embraced the idea and spurred her to move the idea forward. Together Masho and Pastor Kris approached the church session and received permission to start a little library.
Pastor Kris donated bookshelves and a lamp and the congregation overwhelmed Masho with donations of gently used children’s books. The room quickly transformed into a place where children could find books and interact with adults who delighted in them. The library’s success with the congregation and volunteers made Masho consider how she could share it with even more children.
After brainstorming and planning, Masho and her team of volunteers launched a summer library program called Books, Balloons and Animal Crackers. Each Wednesday morning offered a different theme with a story time, craft time, snack time and outdoor play. They invited the children in the neighborhood surrounding the church, emphasizing the program was for any child of any faith to come and read good books and have fun with adults who loved children.
On Wednesday, July 5 Masho invited the Garden Spot Village Wingnuts to join the children for an airplane-themed morning. As Masho read the story, The Airplane Alphabet Book, Bill Ashley and Dick Williams offered additional airplane history and facts. The children and parents who attended that morning were captivated by the airplane stories shared by Barbara, Ashley and Williams.
When she finished reading Masho said, “You can take as many books as you want and yes, you may take a stuffed animal but you can’t take me. I have to make dinner tonight.” The children giggled and one little girl named Lovie responded, “But I want to take you, Mrs. M.”
Following story time, the children moved into the church fellowship hall where Ashley and Williams talked about their model airplanes before the children built their own paper airplanes. A snack and playtime outside completed the morning’s activities.
Masho says, “So many things happened this summer. We planned the program so that it was not just about reading books. It was about sharing life stories and life experiences.”
Masho says her planning intentionally included opportunities for the children to learn how to make good choices. One Wednesday a local patrolman came in his patrol car and talked to the children about safety in the street as well as how to avoid strangers. He allowed the children to look closely at the car and try on his bullet proof vest.
Another Wednesday a dental technician from a local dental practice came and taught the children how to properly brush teeth and handed out toothbrushes. A pet-themed Wednesday featured a conversation about different pets and the responsibilities involved in caring for a pet.
Twenty-five children showed up for “A Birthday Party for Everyone” where they enjoyed snacks and games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Barbara says, “We played old-time games and they loved them!”
Reflecting on the summer Barbara says, “The Lord was so good to us. Every single Wednesday was beautiful and the children were able to go outside and play.” She continues, “People ask, ‘Was the program successful?’ We had a group of men and women who were faithful to these children. To me, that counts as success.”
Pastor Kris echoes that sentiment, “We ministered to 36 children altogether this summer. With laughter, joy, learning, and sharing among children and adults – yes, the program was successful.”
Based on the strong community interest, the Little Library will be open Wednesdays, November through March, from 10am-noon so children can stop in to borrow books.
In addition, Masho and her team of volunteers are already planning a Christmas party for early December and brainstorming ideas for next summer. She looks forward to building on the fun and success of this summer and welcoming more children with a hug and a smile next summer.