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Free Little Libraries reduce children’s reading loss due to pandemic

Special to Leader-Press 


Four-year-old Maddox Tobias loves to read. He loves it so much that he chose his Halloween costume to look like Pete The Cat, one of his favorite books. Now, the reigning Miniature Mister Five Hills is inspiring other youngsters to love reading as much as he does.

As his year-long community service project through the Miss Five Hills Scholarship Program, Maddox is maintaining the Free Little Libraries scattered throughout Copperas Cove with a free book bin at Copperas Cove ISD Pre-K, elementary and junior high schools as well as the two city swimming pools.

Jillian Tobias, Maddox’s mother, said she and her husband have been reading to Maddox daily since he was an infant. 

“Each night is bedtime stories. We have been active in both the Copperas Cove Early Literacy programs offered again since infancy,” Tobias said. “Due to his involvement in the library and love for books, the Free Little Libraries program is a perfect fit for his service project.”

According to Yale University, during summer months the reading skills of children from kindergarten and second grade regress about a full month before they return to the classroom according to Yale University. 

In addition to the expected “summer slide.” Yale University estimates children will have lost as much as 30 percent of their reading skills due to being out of the classroom since March.

Maddox has already drummed up book collections through social media posts as well as donating some of his own books.

“Maddox, being a book lover, has accumulated a huge book collection,” Tobias said. “We have begun going through his books, sorting out the books he has outgrown, and pulling those that we have read dozens of times, to add to the book donations for the Free Little Libraries.”

The purpose of the Free Little Libraries is to offer age-appropriate books to children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week outside of school and library operating hours. Maddox takes extra precautions due to the pandemic, wiping down and sanitizing each book before it goes into the book bins and sanitizing the bins themselves.  

“There are countless benefits for Maddox to complete this service project: the general lesson of helping others, being responsible for a task, selflessness and sharing,” Tobias said. “Due to COVID-19, we are taking extra precautions with book collections. But, we are looking at it as another opportunity to teach responsibility, good hygiene and cleaning habits.”

The Miss Copperas Cove Five Hills Scholarship Program created the Free Little Libraries in 2016 and maintain them on a monthly basis. Book donations may be dropped off to any of the Free Little Library bins or to Copperas Cove ISD, 408 S. Main Street.

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