Literacy education is extremely important to GEM Environmental because it is the building block for all subject matters. Even in mathematics, reading is integral to utilizing mathematics in real-world situations and understanding word problems. Additionally, GEM is especially passionate about students understanding how to read scientific stories from a young age. From learning common words used in all stories to learning the jargon of a specific field, giving students the ability to discover how to read scientific stories has always been an underlying mission for GEM Environmental.
With that mission in mind, GEM decided to create Little Free Libraries for the Prescott Community. Little Free Libraries are small, box-size libraries that are usually placed outside to be enjoyed by any community member. The idea is that the box is filled with books, and if you take a book, you replace it with another book that you own and are willing to donate. This is beneficial in that children can further their reading level while not having to spend money on books and also ensuring new books are continuously placed in the Little Free Library.
The Little Free Libraries are important because they help improve literacy rates, provide books year-round to help mitigate the “summer slide” where kids’ reading skills decrease, and encourage community sharing. GEM was proud to be able to place three Little Free Libraries at different locations around town: the Prescott Unified School District Office, Primavera Elementary School, and Mountain Oak School.
The actual event of making the Little Free Libraries was quite fun! We had three GEM staff members and five volunteers help. Robert Briggs, GEM Environmental's amazing Operations and Program Technician, and Gary Welsh, Eric’s father, took the lead in teaching the group how to use electric saws, nail guns, and super glue. Volunteer extraordinaire, Katie Retwaiut said “It was so fun to get to do a hands-on project that will help support the community. And I got to learn how to use a variety of tools I had never seen before!”
We also furthered our mission as an organization by placing STEM-related books in all of the Little Free Libraries to promote STEM education. One book that we have read in its entirety on our YouTube Channel is Rachel Ignotofsky’s “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World.” Recommended by Dr. Kristina Dandy, a Georgia College & State University professor with a young daughter, the book tells the tale of 50 women who made major contributions to the scientific fields. With its amazing illustrations and beautiful stories, GEM hoped that it would inspire young girls to gain an interest in the science fields. Considering the ratio of men to women in the STEM fields is 3:1, it’s vital that we inspire young girls to take an interest in STEM at the beginning of their education.
GEM’s team had a lot of fun creating these Little Free Libraries and we are so happy that after a full year and a half, all of the libraries are still holding strong. We welcome you to go check them out and maybe read a few of the books yourself!