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This educator promotes literacy inside – and outside – the school

Date: Tuesday, August 25, 2020

We hear stories of educators in our state who are devoted to instilling a love of reading and learning. Often this work continues through the summer, as they dedicate many hours to plan lessons, volunteer at book sales, or donate time and resources in other ways to ensure students can access books. The summer of 2020 was no exception.

Jill Siefken, a leadership and learning consultant with Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency and a part-time literacy professor at Buena Vista University, devotes many hours in a labor of love to provide books for all ages in Siefken's Little Free Library.

Siefken’s passion for literacy and ensuring all students have access to books inspired her to ask her father to build a Little Free Library for her front yard in Manson. 

"I never imagined how rewarding it would be to have the opportunity to put those books into children’s hands,” she said. “I’ve had an incredible number of interesting conversations about books with children as they stop by visiting my library." 

Siefken created Siefken’s Little Free Library Facebook page to promote it, share pictures and activities that she started to promote literacy.

"I started hiding books in baggies around my town with a note inside telling people to read the book, and then hide it for someone else to find,” she said. “I partnered with the local ice cream shop to hand out books with ice cream purchases. I’ve also created Reading BINGO sheets with books for prizes, and stocked the library with journals, bookmarks and pencils."

Siefken's Little Free Library has been a wonderful addition to the community. She will discover messages of gratitude written in chalk and decorated rocks left behind. 

"When COVID hit our town, I began sanitizing every book that was donated or put into my Little Free Library,” she said. “I provided hand sanitizer inside the library and didn’t expect children to return or share the books. The theme of Little Free Libraries is to take a book, share a book.

“Research tells us that choice, access and time to read are critical components to children's reading success. I’m trying to do my part to offer choice and access. We can all play a part in supporting the reading lives of children."