Millsap teacher helps build, places free book exchange in front yard

July 25, 2017

Millsap Elementary teacher Christine Hopkins sits on the bench of her new Little Free Library in front of her house in Bonaire. The book exchange was completed July 16 to help encourage more reading in the neighborhood.
Millsap Elementary teacher Christine Hopkins sits on the bench of her new Little Free Library in front of her house in Bonaire. The book exchange was completed July 16 to help encourage more reading in the neighborhood.

July 25, 2017—A dream became a reality for Christine Hopkins, a reading and writing teacher at Millsap Elementary School who recently opened a Little Free Library in the front yard of her house in Bonaire.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that pushes the love of reading and helps building communities by creating neighborhood book exchanges around the world. With more than 50,000 registered libraries in more than 70 countries, the organization encourages anyone to “take a book, return a book” at its exchanges.

The Free Little Library in front of Christine Hopkins’ home in Bonaire. The Millsap Elementary teacher recently completed the project, which includes an adjoining bench and working bell on its roof.
The Free Little Library in front of Christine Hopkins’ home in Bonaire. The Millsap Elementary teacher recently completed the project, which includes an adjoining bench and working bell on its roof.

“In my classroom, I let kids take books home and I’m not that teacher that goes, ‘OK, you have this one and you to bring it back,’” Hopkins said. “So I’m pretty sure that there’s hundreds of books that have not been brought back in my classroom – and I’m OK with that. It’s the same idea as this.

“Bring a book, borrow a book and take a book. If they bring it back, great. If they don’t, great.”

Hopkins’ Little Free Library is in the shape of a red schoolhouse, a nod to her passion for teaching, and includes an adjoining bench. The project was a collaborative effect between Hopkins and Toni Ritenour, an engineer who started building the library with spare parts around her shop.

The two noticed how many libraries were in the Houston Heights area north of downtown Houston. In all, there are eight registered libraries within roughly six square miles in Houston Heights. There are now 11 registered in the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD attendance zone, which covers 186 square miles.

“I can’t count how many times she’s commented on the little libraries and how much she’d love to have one,” Ritenour said.

Added Hopkins: “They’re everywhere. There’s submarines, little school buses and just all different kinds.”

The Free Little Library in front of Christine Hopkins’ home in Bonaire. The Millsap Elementary teacher recently completed the project, which resembles a vintage schoolhouse.

The library was completed July 16 and Hopkins received her plaque to display on it two days later. It’s protected from the shade of a large tree and the bell on top even rings.

“Kids don’t read during the summers, but if they have books or if they walk by and they see that there’s free books, then they might actually read,” said Hopkins, who’s heard from others hoping to build their own libraries. “So I’m starting something and I like that because our community needs more of this.”

Visit the Little Free Library website for a map of registered local libraries (https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap).

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