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The sound of hammers and saws echoed down the hall of Exploris School in Raleigh last Thursday, but it wasn’t shop class. The students were building book boxes that would carry books across Raleigh. The book boxes serve as pop-up, mini-community libraries.

The Raleigh Reads Initiative is sponsored by Exploris. The goal is to foster community and promote literacy through a booksharing program.

Each teacher at Exploris is responsible for leading a service learning class. Each service learning class lasts ninety minutes and students are given the opportunity to participate in two service learning classes over the course of the school year.

Jessica Todd-Marrone, a seventh grade teacher, selected social justice as her service learning course. Todd-Marrone said, “Each year my project begins with students researching needs in the downtown area and current events and issues. Last year, the student campaign culminated in a photography exhibit entitled “Through the Lens” at CAM Raleigh around LGBT awareness. This year the students chose literacy, in particular downtown illiteracy, as their focus. They went out into the community and arranged meetings with business owners to present their idea of mini-community libraries.”

The students went to a variety of business and nonprofit locations to ask them to participate in the project. The students had to pitch the idea, engage in a conversation, and then pledge to provide ongoing support to the mini-community libraries.

The students that joined in our conversation around the Raleigh Reads project were engaged and enthusiastic. Todd-Marrone pointed out that they have all taken great pride in their craftsmanship and see it as their obligation to serve the broader community.
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One exciting element of the project is that it is replicable. Todd-Marrone indicated that Exploris would love to partner with other schools across Wake County to create their own programs in an attempt to spread community, increase access to books, and generate more buzz around the concept of mini-libraries.

Some Exploris students speak on #RaleighReadsExploris:

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC.