Re-opening Bethune’s Library!

by Kate McHale, Library Coordinator

In partnership with volunteer librarian Jessica Kahn and members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Historic Fair Hill has been working with Mary McLeod Bethune School to reopen their library for for the past year and this fall, we were delighted to begin regular library programming with the students! We see every class in all grades K-8 at Bethune. Things look different for different age groups, but library classes include activities like read-alouds, book checkouts, and independent reading time.

The School District of Philadelphia does not currently fund school libraries. While students have had access to books in their classrooms, they haven’t regularly used their library for many years. It’s been really exciting to see the place rejuvenated with hundreds of new books from book drive donations, beautiful new furniture, and most of all, the wonderful students!

Libraries are an essential resource in society, and often our Historic Fair Hill school libraries are the first libraries a child will visit. With the local libraries operating on limited hours and many parents/caregivers working long hours, we have the opportunity to provide library time and books to the children we see every day which they might not get otherwise. At Bethune, we are basically starting from scratch to teach the students what a library can do for them and what to expect. It’s been challenging at times to start up this new library culture and integrate it into the school environment, but students are clearly enjoying their time with the books! Being able to explore all the options that a library gives you, enjoy a read-aloud, and choose a book for yourself and spend some time with it is really important for kids to develop a love of reading.

When a kid realizes there’s a book about their favorite animal, or video game, or movie character, or a topic they’ve been itching to learn more about, they light up! Or if they’re already loving a series, seeing the next book ready for them on the shelves makes them really happy. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the kids from the classes that I see, and I look forward to continuing to grow and develop our library collections and work at Bethune.

*If you would like to volunteer in the Bethune library or in any of our partner schools and/or are interested in hosting a book drive, send us an email at

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