Friday, August 1, 2014

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library"

In elementary school, I used to sit perched in the windowsill during recess, nose in a book while my classmates played hockey with tiny hockey sticks and a tennis ball. Lost in the world of the Ingalls family in the woods, I blocked out the sounds of their shouting, of their feet pounding the gritty pavement, of the ball smacking the wall beside me. I devoured Anne of Green Gables and Nancy Drew, Boxcar children, and Madeline L’Engle. I begged my mom to take me to the library, and would stay up late reading under the covers by flashlight until my dad came in and gently removed my book and light from my hands, reminding me I could always read more tomorrow.

Not much has changed for me I suppose, though now I read above the covers and use my super-cool book light. In fact, I’ve read four books since we’ve been at the beach, and the sign of a great vacation for me mostly involves plenty of time for reading.

Books have been my escape from the taunts of bullies, my friends through a move from Canada to Georgia, when I wasn’t sure I could possibly make any new ones. A gentle reprieve from the harsh realities of a baby in the hospital, and a quiet retreat when the world of inner-city ministry swirls loud around me.
I've heard it said that prisons use fourth grade literacy rates to determine their future building needs, and while the reality certainly leans more nuanced than this simple fact, it's not actually far from the truth. And many of our mentored children in fourth grade can barely read. As Ashton reminded us, the high schoolers don’t even have books.

85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

Pay attention to where your passion and burdens collide.

And so I am starting a library.

Our office space, next to the church next to our house, located on the main road between the two neighborhoods (which are really just one big neighborhood) we serve. There is an open room when you first come in, and I’m turning it into a library space.
Yes, it’s fairly small. And yes, the city is building a massive library just a mile or two down the street that will open in the next year or two. And yes, we will probably lose some books that never get returned.

But I believe in this space, in creating a place where kids can get lost in a good book. Where we can read with them, where their mentors can bring them for safe and quiet homework help. Where I can help them find friends and worlds that suit their fancy, and where we can surround ourselves with beauty – both in the space around us, and in the words in the books lining its shelves.

The space started out with lovely floral borders (a la grandma wallpaper), cracked walls, and a few gauzy curtains. Thanks to Accent Decor (as usual), we have furnished the space with bright white walls and lots of bookshelves. All that’s left is to fill the shelves with books. And here’s where you come in. I’d love for anyone who feels led to send me a few of your favorite books. See, I don’t want books that are castoffs or boxes of books that no one wants to read. Bad books are the worst. I want books for these kiddos (and the teenagers and their parents too), that will capture their imaginations and make them come back for more.

If you feel led, I’d love for you to send me two or three (or four or five . . .) books. Pray over them, pray for the kiddos (or adults) who will read them, and maybe even write a little note in the front. Or if you’d rather send some money and let me pick out books myself, I’m more than glad to do that too (did I mention that book stores are my happy place?).

So instead of asking for big donations, I’d rather you send me the book you loved most growing up. The one you can’t stop reading to your own kids. The one that got you through middle school angst, or your favorite high school reading assignment. The young adult book you read as an adult and couldn’t quite put down (Fault in our Stars, I’m looking at you). Your favorite books, the ones you’ve read over and over. The ones you cant stop thinking about later in the shower, or lying awake in bed. The book you think our kids should read, or the books about Jesus that changed and informed the way you think about who He is (besides the Bible, we have plenty of those, don’t worry). The book you think every mentor should read, or the books you think they’d love to read together with their mentee.
in progress
I want this library to be a truly community-led and informed space, and having y’all be a part of it would be an honor and joy. Email me (becca1612 at hotmail dot com) if you’re willing to send books and I’ll pass along my address. Thank you so so much for the ways you encourage and love us, and the ways that all of you make all of this possible. Seriously.

Oh and Adam's also building one of these tiny libraries for our front yard for returning books.


  1. I am GIDDY. And I can't even lift the box we have all packed up and ready to go to you. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. And I can't even handle that tiny little library. xoxoxo

  2. I can't wait to send pick out a few of my favorites and my (past) 6th grade student's favorites! :) I also have some great ones from mom that I need to bring you...guess we have to plan another date! :)

  3. Hi Friend,
    I have read, prayed, and followed along on your blog for a few years now... of course I have never commented, ha! (I am shy like that;) Anyway, I LOVE this tangible way that we readers can give back to the ministry that you guys have established! Can't wait to compile some favorites and send them your way!

  4. I love this. In elementary school I used to tell people I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up so this makes me so happy! I will be thinking of some favorites and sending them your way.

  5. Feel free to come over and pick things out of the Marketplace.


I LOVE hearing from you. Thank-you for reading and interacting, and being the best!


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