Phi Theta Kappa members design Little Free Library for local children

Director of Development for Ignite Youth Club, Nikki Thomas, shows an after-school group of students how the “Little Free Library” works. She explains to the students the take a book, leave a book concept. Many of the books in the library serve as Accelerated Reader (AR) point material. The library was designed as a part of PTK’s Honors in Action Project.

By Aiden Camp
Staff Writer

Phi Theta Kappa has just completed their Honors in Action Project, a community service project in which students personally take on a community centered need and work to meet that need. On March 6th 2024 they celebrated the completion of their very own little free library. 

This “Little Free Library” follows a “take a book, leave a book” system where anyone in the community can come and find free literature to feed the mind. Inspired by the theme “learning through play” Phi Theta Kappa students were in charge of constructing their own passion project to reach students from elementary to middle school age with bilingual books to promote cross cultural exchange between Mount Pleasant’s vast Hispanic community and encourage reading to low income and “underserved” members. Melody Mott describes her students’ inspiration for the project, saying, “Mount Pleasant is a small rural town, so we thought ‘what can we do to help little Mount Pleasant? Let’s build a little free library!” 

When planning the building process for the library Miss Hayes describes their collaboration by saying, “We thought,’ how do we build something like this? What do we do?’ And I said, ‘well, my father builds things! He has over thirty years of building experience; he’s built every home I’ve ever lived in.” Workshops were created for students to learn the basics of carpentry and create a beautiful Aztec inspired library. The Little Library itself is much larger than the typical libraries, the paint job depicting blue and white talavera tiles with yellow marigolds surrounding the base. The colors themselves are associated with Phi Theta Kappa, as well as Aztec mythology. “We’re overachievers,” Athena explains, “this couldn’t be a simple little thing.” 

In collaboration with Hayes and her father Michael (M.J.) Hayes, the PTK organization took on this long winded project beginning in the summer 2023 with hours of work extending into the evening planning and assembling the library. Students were responsible for gathering applications, blueprints, budgeting, and creating the little free library. Their work was extensive, beginning with taking a research trip to Jackson Mississippi to visit Phi Theta Kappa headquarters and learn what the Honors in Action Project aimed to achieve.

While visiting the students explored the many other Little Libraries in the area and took note of what made a successful library and why others were struggling. The Little Free Library is set up in front of Ignite- a local after school program with a large group of kids in the target demographic for the library. Post-COVID, literacy rates have taken a massive decline, predominantly affecting elementary and middle school students. These are important years for reading development and became the perfect target group to gather books for.

“It’s so important to promote this sort of thing to give access to books, especially not just books that are bilingual, but chapter books, picture books, to promote that love for reading,” says Hayes.

The students of PTK have undoubtedly created a beautiful project, especially as reading programs continue to struggle in a post quarantine environment where several critical years of learning in a classroom were lost. The community of Mount Pleasant banded together to assist on the creation of this project. Thanks to the donations of the Mount Pleasant Public Library, personal donations, and local businesses, PTK was able to obtain approximately three years of reading material that will be circulated throughout the library- this is not accounting for the community;s continuous exchange of personal book donations throughout the years to come.

Melody Mott describes her pride in the PTK members, “What I see is a bunch of talented individuals who brought all of their special skills to the table. Every single one of them, despite how busy they are- ‘cause you know, they’re still honor students- to see these really top notch students use good coordination, organizational skills, great with community outreach and good at following through? I’m very proud of my students,” additionally adding Phi Theta Kappa’s appreciation for the time and efforts contributed by the Hayes family, “We really appreciate her [Athena’s] help. I don’t think this project would be as nice or as organized if it weren’t for the two of them.”