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Mobile libraries reach out to DeKalb community

DeKALB – Work keeps DeKalb resident Paris Dentley from taking her son to the library as often as she'd like, but now a library is coming to them.

Northern Illinois University's Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic placed a "little free library" Wednesday at Gideon Court Apartments, 1325 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, where children could grab a book to read from a former newspaper vending machine.

"It'll be nice for [Randell] to be able to come down and still get that experience," Dentley said about her son.

Providing better access to books was the main goal of the literacy clinic, which currently has four locations with little free libraries. The newest location was unveiled Thursday at the food pantry of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 1915 N. First St., DeKalb. The other two locations are at AB Supermarket, 1612 Sycamore Road in DeKalb, and El Flamingo Restaurant, 1029 Pleasant St. in DeKalb.

The hope is to provide as many little free libraries across DeKalb and Sycamore in locations where families might not have the resources to go to the library, said Laurie Elish-Piper, director of the clinic.

The libraries work on an honor system: Children can grab a book from the newspaper vending machine and return it when they are finished reading the book. A graduate assistant at the literacy clinic will check each machine weekly to see if more books need to be added or replaced, Elish-Piper said.

The clinic purchases its books at an 80 to 90 percent discount rate from Scholastic Family and Community Engagement. Each little free library can hold as many as 50 children's books.

"Our motto is, 'Take a book, return a book,' to spread the love of reading," Elish-Piper said.

Books are targeted for children up to middle school age. Young adult books also will be available.

Elisabeth Boothe, 10, of DeKalb, chose to read a young adult fiction novel called "Only the Good Spy Young" after the unveiling at Gideon Court Apartments. Boothe was determined to read the 265-paged book. She sat in the shade Wednesday reading while other students played in the playground.

"I love reading, because it focuses your mind," Elisabeth said, "and the books you read take you on a little journey."

Randell McDonald, 7, said his favorite books to read are adventure books. He was surprised when his mother told him the little free library was going to be a permanent fixture near the apartment complex's playground.

"I don't have to go all the way to the public library," Randell said with a smile. "I just walk to it."

How to help

Residents can donate children's books to Northern Illinois University's Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic, 3100 Sycamore Road, Suite 2003 in DeKalb.

Area Little Free Library locations

• AB Supermarket, 1612 Sycamore Road in DeKalb

• Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 1915 N. First St., DeKalb

• El Flamingo Restaurant, 1029 Pleasant St. in DeKalb

• Gideon Court Apartments, 1325 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb

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