Booking it

FMS students help bring free books to campus

  • From left, Caroline Nichols, Madison Willoughby and Emme Kincaid show off the beginnings of what would be a new Little Free Library several classmates worked on as a project at the end of the 2022-23 school year under sixth-grade English/language arts teacher Julie Claxton. - Michelle Hollenhead

  • The new “Little Free Library”was placed beside the Kindness Benches near the teacher parking lot during the summer. - Michelle Hollenhead

  • From left, Madison Willoughby, Sam Duby, Emme Kincaid and Olive Jessee paint the Little Free Library, a project late last year from Farragut Middle School English/language arts teacher Julie Claxton’s sixth-grade class. - Michelle Hollenhead

A small group of Farragut Middle School sixth graders — along with their parents — in English/Language arts teacher Julie Claxton’s class helped put together a new Little Free Library, which will offer an external site to distribute free reading books starting with the new school year.

Madison Willoughby, Emme Kincaid, Caroline Nichols, Sam Duby and Olive Jessee worked near the end of the 2022-23 school year on the free-standing library, which once completely assembled and painted, was set into place near the school’s “kindness benches” over the summer.

“We were able to pick where the library would be installed and thought it would be a good place, near where the benches were already located,” said Claxton, who also noted the library could be utilized by staff and students from the nearby intermediate and high schools, too.

“There is a lot of foot traffic in that area, and there are always kids out there already,” she added.

Claxton said she had the idea for the project last year after seeing a “Little Free Library” located in Rockford, in Blount County, near where she lives.

“I thought surely Farragut could built one and have one on our campus, too,” Claxton said.

The idea certainly fell in line with her own personal and professional interests.

“I love reading, I love promoting reading and have my own library in my class, so it seemed like an appropriate project,” she said.

Claxton said the students who became involved “were all strong readers, and at the beginning of the year we all had a shared vision of a literary project we wanted to initiate.

“Every kid who wanted to had the opportunity to get involved,” she added.

After getting approval from then principal Wes Edmonds, the Little Library was purchased by the school and ordered from the “Little Free Library Company,” which had several options from which to choose.

“We didn’t order the biggest one, but the second to largest size,” Claxton said.

Madison said as a group, they also created and hung fliers around the school, promoting the project and asking for book submissions to fill up the Little Library once it was completed.

Once the materials arrived, several parents, including Caroline’s mother, Janet Nichols, along with Emme’s father, Brian Kincaid, were among the adults who helped to put the library together.

Then, “The girls selected everything they wanted to be included on the different sides of the library,” Claxton said. “Madison’s mom, Kelly Willoughby, and a friend of Sam’s mother, Diedra Rosenberger (who also has a daughter in maroon pod at FMS), supported us with the lettering and picture art on the library.”

The project was just one more way Claxton makes reading and literature fun for her students, from games they play, to bringing in guest authors, to making highly decorative bookmarks.

“We also had a book tasting, like a food tasting, but different genres of books were ‘served’ on platters,” Madison said. “Students could read a few pages while drinking hot chocolate because, really, we thought, ‘What’s a tasting without drinks?’”

“We also had a food truck project, where we picked a book then created a theme and menu around it,” Emme said.

“I read a Harry Potter book and it had a big snake, so I made snake cookies,” Caroline added. “We got tickets and you could visit the different ‘food trucks.’’’

“Then, we had book character dress up day for Halloween,” Madison recalled. “Kids paid $1 to participate, or donated a book for (the charity)Isaiah House.”