KC groups ply portable libraries to Joplin area

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City group has given several handcrafted portable libraries with a total of nearly 1,500 books to two Joplin area elementary schools heavily damaged in the May tornado.

The Kansas City volunteers presented 22 of the libraries to the Emerson and Irving elementary schools Monday. Both schools sustained major damage and lost most of their supplies in the tornado. The schools have also been operating out of temporary sites for the school year.

Each portable library is about 42 inches high, made from wood and hinged to open and close like giant books and comes with 65 new books, according to The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/uCKHG7).

The idea for the rolling libraries was spearheaded by April Roy, a children’s librarian from the Kansas City Public Library. The libraries were built by members of the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild and painted by artists from Hallmark to look like popular children’s books. Organizers also raised enough money to buy the books and present the two schools each with a check for $2,000.

The group making the presentations Monday included several Woodworkers’ Guild members, Hallmark representative Mark Spencer, two children’s musicians and Roy.

“We call our collaborative effort Turning the Page for Joplin: Building a Community of Readers,” Roy said.

The group presented 13 of the libraries to the pupils and teachers of Emerson in an all-school assembly. Nine libraries were also presented to students and teachers at Irving Elementary on Monday afternoon.

Emerson was damaged beyond repair in the May 22 tornado. Its students and teachers moved to Duquesne Elementary in time for school to start on Aug. 17, and Duquesne students moved to Duenweg Elementary.

Principal Nila Vance said not only did Emerson teachers lose everything in their classrooms, but at least half of the students lost their homes. Many are living in mobile homes provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said.

Irving also was destroyed in the tornado. Students and teachers moved into the former Washington Education Center for the first day of school. Irving Principal Debbie Fort said many of her students also lost their homes, and teachers have been humbled by the support shown from strangers in getting their classrooms back up and running.

“When I heard that some sad things had happened in Joplin, I thought, ‘What on earth can we do to help?”’ Roy told the children during Emerson’s assembly. “I thought, ‘You know, I really love books, and I really love kids, so I have to figure out a way to get some books to some kids because I know that books can make people happy.”’

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Information from: The Joplin Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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