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Free book sharing box installed outside aquatic center

Miss Morgantown 2020 Ashley Schifano installed a Little Free Library book-sharing box on Wednesday, outside the Aquatic Center at Mylan Park.

“I was able to build and stock the free little library because of our community,” Schifano said. “It wasn’t something I did on my own.”

Part of being Miss Morgantown is running a social-impact initiative and Schifano, who recently graduated with a master’s in elementary education, said she learned during her studies just how important childhood literacy is, so she started collecting books from the community with a goal of 10,000 — which she reached several weeks ago.

In her research on children’s literacy she discovered the national Free Little Library program, which is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange run out of more than 100,000 locations across the nation. 

“I am a great example of the problem I see and the problem I want to help fix,” Schifano said. “I hated reading. My mom was a teacher, always reading books to me. Looking back, I appreciate that.” 

As a result of not liking to read, Schifano said she would sometimes not really read tests, just “take it and go.”

“That’s the problem I’m seeing,” she said. “ I wanted to be a helping hand in that situation.”

Schifano said she found directions to build the book-storage box through HGTV, then built and painted it. She said her dad and fiance play a big part in helping her. On Wednesday, she installed and fully stocked it with a variety of books for kids, and some chapter books that can be enjoyed by anyone.

Heather McIntyre, assistant director of marketing and outreach at Mylan Park, said she was “more than excited” to host the library when Schifano reached out.

“We were very excited to have her come out and do that,” McIntyre said. “I encourage everyone to come out and get a book or bring a book, because it goes both directions.”

The aquatic center attracts a high volume of people — especially now that its outdoor splash pad is open. There are people, like McIntyre, who like to read while they lounge and sometimes the book gets left behind in the rush to pack.

Schifano has another box built. It just needs to be painted and the door put on before she installs it at Krepps Park in a few weeks. She hopes to team up with BOPARC to install even more boxes this summer.

Pantry Plus More is a partner of Schifano’s and helped identify less-wealthy neighborhoods where residents sometimes struggle to get enough school supplies. Schifano said she hopes to build another five or six more boxes by the end of June and install them in those areas. Those little free libraries will have an additional shelf on top for school supplies.

While Schifano has reached her goal of collecting 10,000 books, she said she isn’t finished. Donation details are available on the Miss Morgantown 2020 Facebook page.

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