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What Would Jane Read? Episode 7: MVCS Alexandria Book Shelf

October 6th, 2014 (12:58 pm)

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What Would Jane Read?

This morning, Action Figure Jane Austen visited a very special site for free books. The Alexandria Book Shelf at Mount Vernon Community School is not officially a Little Free Library, but its mission is exactly the same -- to spread the joy of reading -- so Jane was thrilled to be part of its official Grand Opening today.

Alexandria Book Shelf, along with the staff and PTA of MVCS, started this new initiative to get more books into the hands of the school's 800+ students, many of whom come from families without the resources to buy books of their own. The project, sponsored by the Dream Dog Foundation, works pretty much like a Little Free Library. Students can browse the shelves in the school lobby and take books. They can keep the books as long as they want. When they're finished with them, they can bring them back or pass them on to friends. (The Little Free Libraries in the neighborhood would be happy to accept them, too!) This is the latest in a series of sites where Alexandria Book Shelf is providing free books for the city's children.

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A group of students from the K-5 public school took part in the Grand Opening, along with Principal Peter Balas, staff members from the school and from Alexandria City Public Schools headquarters, School Board Chair Karen Graf, other parents, and representatives from Dream Dog and Alexandria Book Shelf. Even Jazz the Dream Dog was on hand as a fifth-grader cut the ribbon to mark the start of the new initiative. Students chose their first official books from the bookcase, which takes the place of a big old display case that used to be there, and had a chance to sit down and read.

The boy holding Action Figure Jane in this photo was intrigued by comets in the book he chose about space. He asked me and Jennifer Keneally (who coordinates Alexandria Book Shelf for the Dream Dog Foundation) to help him calculate his age the next time Halley's Comet will be visible from Earth. He'll be 54. That made us feel really old, until Jane pointed out that she'll be 286.

Everyone involved in the project was quick to give credit to everyone else. But at MVCS, Principal Balas and PTA Vice President of Programs Carolyn Alers were the ones largely responsible for making it happen. Keeping it running will be a joint effort of everyone involved, including the staff, parents, and students of Mount Vernon Community School, Dream Dog, and Alexandria Book Shelf. (In the photo at top, that's Principal Peter Balas standing behind the kids, in front of the bookcase. And Carolyn Alers of the MVCS PTA is on the left in a Dream Dog Foundation yellow shirt, with Action Figure Jane in her hand.)

Action Figure Jane usually chooses a book to take home from the offerings at any Little Free Library she visits, but this time, she didn't want to deprive the students. So she just donated a few this time, and entertained herself by perusing the collection. She was surprised at the wide variety of books that are now being published for children, and a little scandalized at the whole Captain Underpants thing. But she quite approves of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books and was intrigued by lighthearted, humorous books about happy pirates, so she asked to have her picture taken with those.

What she found even more entertaining was watching the youngsters read. Their enthusiasm for free books had her nodding her little plastic head in approval. (In the next photo, notice Jane on the shelf between the two boys, with the boy in the GAP sweatshirt pointing at her.)

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P1270686 Two Jane Pics with Books
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(In that final photo, notice Jane on the floor in the foreground, with the second girl from the right.) Congratulations to the folks at Mount Vernon Community School, the PTA, Alexandria Book Shelf, and the Dream Dog Foundation for bringing books to kids! Jane Austen is proud of you.