Promoting literacy in rural areas

Michelle Wulfson | The Item

Tucked away off of a country road on the outskirts of Dodge lies a library so small, it could easily be missed with the blink of an eye.

Martee Rush found Free Little Library online after searching for memorial ideas for her granddaughter, Kyndall.

Kyndall was 12 years old with a love of books when she died in a four wheeler accident on Rush’s property in 2013. Her mother passed only two years earlier.

“For me, it is a way to honor Kyndall and her memory. It’s a way for us to give back to other children in her honor,” said Martee Rush, founder of Free Little Library charter number 66608.

Free Little Libraries are typically small wooden boxes on posts, located in communities where anyone is welcome to take a book or leave one. These libraries are registered and can be found online. Rush’s is listed as one of six Free Little Libraries in Walker County.

Kyndall was an avid reader and loved the Bernstein Bears, Elmo – and as she grew older – Harry Potter.

Rush’s library was registered in 2017, quietly nestled at the edge of her property with native Texas greenery surrounding a quaint 18” wide, 23” tall, 16” deep library.

The charter carries exclusively children’s books from infancy to high school levels and Rush will often return home to find adolescent readers sitting on a bench next to her library, reading in the peaceful scenery.

Rush takes pride in the library and changes out her collection regularly, incorporating themes or seasonal touches with decorations. “I’ve done Shark Week, and I change them out for the seasons — Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter,” Rush said.

Through her travels, Rush brings books back to add to the library, most recently adding a couple of books from a visit to the Holocaust Museum.

Kids often sign a guest book and leave kind notes for her, with some leaving trinkets as gifts. Parents send her pictures of their kids taking a book from the library that she will later post on her charter’s Facebook page.

Rush noticed a number of notes in her guest book written in Spanish, and began stocking books in for spanish-speaking readers to enjoy.

Rush said that visitors mostly come from the Dodge community. However being in the country, foot traffic is minimal. Rush uses Geocaches to make her library a destination for treasure hunters to seek out.

Geocaches are part of a worldwide outdoor treasure hunt, typically being a hidden container whose coordinates have been posted on the internet to be found. Inside is a log for finders to sign and a Trackable, or Travel Bug, etched with a unique code enabling its movement to be logged as it travels the world. So far, Rush as had her Travel Bugs logged in Alaska, Wisconsin and Indiana.

Rush has gone on to add a library in El Indio, a south Texas town where she and her husband hunt and participate in The Book Fairies, a global group dedicated to bringing books to the people.

Book Fairies could be anyone in your community, leaving behind books marked with green Book Fairy stickers to be discovered by an inquisitive passerby.

Rush hopes that her Book Fairy finders and visitors to her library take away a love of books, sharing and kindness. “There’s no expectation to leave anything, it’s just if you want to take it, it’s there for you,” Rush said.

“(Kyndall) would love it… she would be down here everyday seeing if somebody had been in it, seeing what books are gone and what books people liked,” Rush said. “When I leave home and when I come home, it’s like my little way of telling Kyndall that I love her and that I’m thinking of her,” Rush said.

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