VALPARAISO — “The more we read together the happier we’ll be,” sang eight little voices last week at the Okaloosa STEMM Academy.
The children were enjoying their weekly storytime at the new Little Stringers Library within the school’s Pre-KD area.
This is the first year that STEMM Academy has housed a Pre-KD program. At the end of last school year, Okaloosa County School District moved pre-kindergarten special-needs students from Bluewater Elementary School, Plew Elementary School and Edge Elementary School to the STEMM Academy to free up classrooms at the other schools.
Some parents of the Pre-KD students expressed concern with the move, but Superintendent Marcus Chambers said the district had plans to possibly add a media center and upgrade the playground.
In the meantime, hard-working volunteers and generous members of the Niceville and Valparaiso community made the new Pre-KD library a reality.
“With zero budget and with the generosity of our community, the Little Stingers’ Library currently boasts over 900 beautiful children's books and eight dedicated volunteers who provide a weekly story time, book check out time, and reading-centered activities for the seven preschool classes,” said Donna Farrell, one of the lead volunteers for the library project.
Farrell said librarians from Ruckel Middle School and from Bluewater and Plew Elementary schools donated books,shelves and other items. As word of the project spread, parents and other community members donated even more books.
“We came in (this summer), I found the space that we could utilize,” said outgoing STEMM Academy Principal Wanda Avery. “I emailed that information out to our middle school parents (about the need) for donations and that’s been real neat to see.”
The Little Stringer’s Library consists of one wall of books in kid-sized bookshelves that have been fastened to the wall. A large wooden book also graces the corner of the room and is used at the end of the library program for students to choose a board book to either take back to the classroom or take home.
“We do what we can with the resources that we have,” said parent and volunteer Emily Lamberson. “Right now this room is being used for therapy, for library and for a walk-through to the play ground and if they ever needed to be a classroom, than obviously we would need to adjust so we try to keep it as mobile as we can.”
The main message volunteers and STEMM Academy administrators said they want to share about the library is that it was a true community effort.
“You know the old, ‘It takes a village' to raise a child?’ This has been such a village thing,” Farrell said. “The community has just been so supportive.”