Anthony Orozco December 29, 2018
In the drizzling rain Friday afternoon, Oakbrook Homes resident Shelly Rosario and her three young sons became the first people to take books out of the 18th Ward's first official Little Free Library.
"It's awesome," Rosario said at the library housed in front of the Oakbrook Homes administration building. "We have a problem at home because we have books, but they get tired of the same stories all the time. They can bring those books here and also read someone else's stories."
The Little Free Library is part of a bigger initiative of the 18th Wonder Improvement Association, a community group focused on revitalizing Reading's southwestern neighborhoods.
The goal to bring 18 Little Free Libraries to the ward has been eight months in the making, according to Tanya Melendez, a member of the organization's resident committee.
"I'm super hyper and excited about them," Melendez said about the libraries. "I hope that not only it gets people reading but that it builds a sense of community."
The creation of the boxes was a community effort, Melendez said.
At the start of the year, Hector Ruiz, an 18th Ward resident and owner of Sofrito Gastro Pub, created and established the ward's first prototype Little Free Library, stationed near his Millmont home.
Students at the Reading Muhlenberg Career & Technology Center designed the 18th Wonder logo, Reading Eagle Company donated 18 used newspaper distribution boxes and car dealer Tom Masano donated time, labor and materials to paint the boxes, Melendez said.
Another library is housed near Melendez's home in the 800 block of Margaret Street and the other 16 libraries will be placed around the ward in coming weeks, Melendez said.
All of the libraries will be registered with the national Little Free Library organization. People can find libraries near them at littlefreelibrary.org.
Melendez said she looks forward to upcoming improvement efforts planned for the spring, including making the ward more pedestrian friendly, public meetings and a youth scholarship essay contest.