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Malden program one for the books

MALDEN — It is very difficult to get around the city these days without bumping into a book.

The popular Malden Reads … One City, One Book program has seemingly taken the community by storm, this year more than ever, as its facilitators make presentations of its 2018 book selection all around the city.

Maldonians also have the generosity of their own neighbors and high school students to thank for the arrival of a quaint, but inspiring addition to their hometown, “Little Free Libraries.”  

The new-to-Malden Little Free Library concept began with the installation of the “borrow a book, leave a book” station on Ashland Street in Ward 1 at the beginning of last summer.

Recently, the Little Free Library expanded to Malden’s schools as Design and Engineering teacher Ashley Freeman and her class built several installable book sanctuaries that are to be erected outside each of the city’s five K-8 schools as well as the Early Learning Center.

All signs are certainly pointing to Malden’s residents among the most “well-read” citizenry in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

“We are thrilled at the tremendous response we are getting from many people around the community and the partnership we have established with the Malden Public Schools,” said Jodie Zalk, a co-founder of Malden Reads in 2010 with Anne D’Urso-Rose, who was recently named Malden “Person of the Year” by Essex Media Group.

“Malden students are fortunate to have programs such as Title I and the excellent work being done under the direction of Janice Raymond,” Zalk said during a presentation to the Malden School Committee on Malden Reads, “and we are all very pleased to see a librarian added for the K-8 schools this year in Malden.”

Malden High School student Christina Charles, representing the school’s Black Culture Club, told the school board members students are excited about partnering with Malden Reads with this year’s book selection, The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, which depicts the story of a young black woman trying to find her way following a series of tragic events in her home city.

“We are supporting Malden Reads in getting the word out on this book selection, and we would like to make this a tradition, not just a one-year partnership this year,” Charles said. She added that the subject matter of the The Hate U Give book made it especially pertinent for joining in the promotion by the Black Culture Club.

To that end, Malden Reads is joining up with the Malden High Black Culture Club for its major  kickoff event, planned for Thursday, Feb. 15 at the high school’s Jenkins Auditorium from 6:30-8 p.m. The evening will feature a formal presentation of the book selection and its companion books for younger readers, dialogue on topical issues associated with the book, as well as artwork, exhibit tables and refreshments.

“It is exciting to see so much attention around these programs and projects and the partnerships being established with the Malden Public Schools and our students and staff,” Malden Superintendent John Oteri said. “We look forward to the presentation at the high school.”

“My family and many families I know have really embraced Malden Reads and it has been a part of our lives for years and we are better for it,” said Malden Ward 5 School Committee member Tara Beardsley.

The Little Free Library “movement” began in late May 2017 just before summer when some Ward 1 residents built and installed a “take a book, leave a book” station, shaped like a miniature house/library on Ashland Street, at the site where the former Ashland Street Fire Station and a small branch of the Malden Public Library once operated.

At the time, the organizers, Lisa Suida and Jon Bekeheimer, said they were starting the movement to harken back to those days of neighborhood libraries.

Freeman and her pre-engineering students turned the MakerSpace classroom at the high school into a Little Free Library “factory” and created a number of the stations. “The students really took to this project and did some very good work,” said Freeman, who received a $15,000 grant in September for winning the Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s Lawrence W. O’Toole Leadership Award, awarded to just 12 teachers in New England for their efforts in guiding student-centered approaches to learning.

Freeman said the project is nearly complete and that the goal is to have a Little Free Library at every Malden K-8 school. “We are getting there, it’s a rewarding project for our students,” she said.

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