Students show off their library books.

Students Create Their Own Home Libraries

My Very Own Library initiative will provide 35,850 new books to children at nine area public schools.

“To build a library is to create a life. It’s never just a random collection of books.”
~ Carlos María Domínguez, writer and journalist

Seven-year-old Keyon Johnson is so excited it’s difficult for him to hold his new book steady. After all, it’s just one of 10 books that will ultimately create something very special for this second-grade Kansas City Public Schools student.

“Ten books is a lot,” said Keyon, who attends Benjamin Banneker Elementary. “I want to make my own library. I want to make a whole library.”

Personal libraries like Keyon’s are popping up in the homes of thousands of area students thanks the My Very Own Library (MVOL) program.

Founded in 2011 by the late Anne Feeley, this national literacy initiative supplies students in need with books in an effort close the equity gap and foster a lifelong love of reading in children at an early age while helping them to build their very own home libraries. Kansas City is one of seven under-resourced communities worldwide selected to take part in the MVOL program. 

Locally, the effort is supported by the United Way of Greater Kansas City, Turn the Page KC, Lead to Read KC, Scholastic Book Fairs and Kansas City Public Schools. In the 2016-2017 academic year alone, MVOL distributed more than 24,700 books to children in seven Kansas City schools. 

The book fair collaboration between MVOL and Scholastic harnesses the power of choice. Participating students, like Keyon Johnson, are given the opportunity to self-select their own books from fairs at their schools, where they can shop among the latest and most popular titles. The kids leave with a total of 10 books each for their personal home collections.

Why does this matter? Research shows home library size has a substantial effect on educational attainment. Additionally, Scholastic’s annual Kids & Family Reading Report found that 90 percent of kids ages 6 to 17 say they’re more likely to finish a book they picked out themselves.

Now through the end of the 2019 school year, thanks to MVOL and United Way of Greater Kansas City, 3,585 students from nine public schools will take home 35,850 children’s books.

The significance of the My Very Own Library initiative is not lost on Benjamin Banneker Elementary School’s principal, Harrison Neal. Reading, Mr. Neal said, gives a student “an opportunity to explore different worlds.”

“If students can read, they can do anything.”