Girl Scout creates micro libraries for kids in book deserts

Josie Dunlap stands with some of the books she stocked in the resource room at Eastside Mosaic Church in Marietta. As a Girl Scout, she established three permanent micro libraries for kids in areas that are book deserts. One of the Book Nooks is at Eastside Mosaic Church community and resource center where students did their virtual classes during the pandemic. Josie stocked the room with 900 books, plus games and school supplies. This is Josie's Girl Scout Gold Award project. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Josie Dunlap stands with some of the books she stocked in the resource room at Eastside Mosaic Church in Marietta. As a Girl Scout, she established three permanent micro libraries for kids in areas that are book deserts. One of the Book Nooks is at Eastside Mosaic Church community and resource center where students did their virtual classes during the pandemic. Josie stocked the room with 900 books, plus games and school supplies. This is Josie's Girl Scout Gold Award project. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Thanks to a persistent Girl Scout, children in some underserved areas now have books, school supplies, and games at their fingertips. No library card, contribution or parental help is required.

Josie Dunlap, 18, a 2021 honors graduate from Hillgrove High School in Cobb County, wanted to get books in the hands of kids who don’t often have access to them. She worked throughout the pandemic to create Kids Books in Nooks as her Girl Scout Gold Award project, collecting and giving away more than 4,000 books.

Her micro libraries are in a church community center serving a large immigrant population, an emergency family homeless shelter, and a transitional housing complex.

The Gold Award – Girl Scouting’s highest achievement – requires a service project that solves a real-world problem with a sustainable solution, explained Amy Dosik, CEO of the 34-county-region Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

Josie’s project took hundreds of hours, and its impact earned her a special Girl Scout of Distinction Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting. Dosik said she was impressed to see Scouts, like Josie, not let pandemic setbacks keep them from completing their goals.

Josie started thinking about her project during her freshman year of high school and worked on it for the next three years.

“I’ve always been a passionate reader, that’s been a huge part of my life, and I knew I wanted to do something with books,” she said.

When pandemic restrictions canceled her fundraisers, she held socially distanced versions where friends could drop off books and supplies at her house.

Josie reached out to local places to see if they might want an in-house library for their residents. The first to say yes was Eastside Mosaic Church, which operates a neighborhood community center. She stocked the Mosaic Community Ministry and Resource Center with shelving, 900 books, and supplies for the students who came during the quarantine to do virtual schooling.

Josie Dunlap checks the supply of books in the resource room at Eastside Mosaic Church in Marietta. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Josie Dunlap checks the supply of books in the resource room at Eastside Mosaic Church in Marietta. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Kids Books in Nooks libraries are also in two facilities run by MUST Ministries: Elizabeth Inn Homeless Shelter in Marietta and a transitional housing complex in Canton.

Josie brought in bookshelves and decorations, reorganizing a student resource room, and adding 550 books at Elizabeth Inn. In addition, she set up a community resource room with shelves and 700 books at the Canton facility and restocked a gaming area.

Buckets are available for families to take items to their rooms while adhering to social distancing protocols. And, she also stocked books for parents to read.

While not part of her original project, Josie also gave away more than $8,000 worth of school supplies to Cobb County teachers. She and friends retrieved the free supplies from a charity clearing out its office building, no longer needed during the pandemic.

“Having adequate supplies affects performance in the classroom as much as literacy does,” Josie said.

The Kids Books in Nooks project donated an overstock of more than 2,000 books to Read 4 Unity. The nonprofit agreed to maintain the libraries by restocking shelves and meeting with local Girl Scout troops to collect more books. Many of the resources will be used and never returned.

“In reality, you can’t control whether someone brings back a book or not. So if a kid needs that book, and it’s the only book they own, it’s completely OK, and I want them to have that book,” Josie said.

With high school and Girl Scouts now complete, Josie is headed to the University of Florida to study applied physiology and kinesiology. While no longer involved with the libraries, she said she is “extremely proud” of how they turned out.

“I learned that I could make a plan and have it come to fruition through hard work and planning,” she said.

Her mom, Shannon Dunlap, said she was proud of her daughter for going through the process.

“I think it was a big learning and growing opportunity,” Dunlap said. “People at these sites were excited and grateful for these resources that they now have.”

Josie Dunlap with some of the books she stocked in the resource room at Eastside Mosaic Church in Marietta. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Josie Dunlap with some of the books she stocked in the resource room at Eastside Mosaic Church in Marietta. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

WHAT INSPIRES ABOUT KIDS BOOKS IN NOOKS?

Micro libraries are for apartment complexes, community centers, and other spaces accessible to children.

Directions for creating your own are at kidsbooksinnooks.com.

It was important for Josie Dunlap to create a way for children living in book deserts to have reading material. The teen is an avid reader with a personal library of 500 books and an Instagram book review page.

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