Why I joined Street Library

Meet Shayla from New York!

Shayla, a product development coordinator in the fashion industry, shares her deep reflections on what has motivated her to start volunteering as a facilitator at Street Library, why she has continued, and the transformative impact that the interactions at Street Library have had on her.

Read her reflections below and join Shayla in supporting Street Library this holiday season by making a donation today!

Story Garden is the name for the local Street Library. Shayla created this poster to invite children
Story Garden is the name for the local Street Library. Shayla created this poster to invite children

I had thought about volunteering with kids for quite some time, but I always put it off. However, last winter, I saw a documentary film called 13th. It was about the Thirteenth Amendment and the mass incarceration of African American men in the United States. It was disturbing and extremely saddening. I was forced to question myself – what are you doing to help? How is the way you are living your life helping to change the world for the better? I decided to look online for volunteer opportunities that involved helping minority youth.

I found Street Library and it seemed like a great opportunity to work with a community of children. Although my two hours volunteering each Saturday may not be changing the world, I know it is making a small step to help.

Before attending Street Library, I was a little nervous. I had previously read articles about gangs and violence in Brownsville, and as a female, I was worried about traveling there alone. However, after attending Street Library just one time, I felt like a new person. I thought I would be giving myself, but I have received so much in return. The children have had a huge impact on me. They welcomed me with open arms and have been so receptive to reading and the activities we do.

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Shayla and children at the Festival of Arts and Learning: a summer extension of weekly Street Libraries to bridge the learning gap over the summer school vacation

I have also realized that there are many kind and generous people in Brownsville. I’m glad I didn’t allow the neighborhood’s reputation to deter me from pursuing the opportunity to volunteer. I am motivated to continue because I feel like they have become my friends and I enjoy seeing them grow and learn.

One of my favorite Street Library memories was when Virginie (Street Library facilitator) read the book “Mix It Up!” by HervĂ© Tullet to the children for the first time. The book instructs the readers to follow specific instructions which causes the “paint” to appear in different colors, mix, splatter, etc. The children’s reaction to the book was amazing! They all wanted to participate and they truly believed they were making magic happen. That experience showed me that even though the children are sometimes faced with unfavorable realities, reading allows them to be curious and imaginative.

I enjoy spending time with the children and it has motivated me to do more. After joining the Street Library volunteer team, I have decided to apply for grad school for Early Childhood Education. Through my interactions with the kids, I have heard a number of negative things from them about school and I want to help them change their feelings and perception about learning. I want to work with children daily and give them the encouragement they need to excel in school.

~ Shayla


23915611_10214910535021295_4307093917869075035_nShow your support for Street Library by donating here! You can also post your photo with a message about #LoveReading and share it on Facebook to spread the word. Our Adopt a Street Library Campaign runs through December 31, 2017. Please consider joining and giving! Thank you!

“My parents inspired me to love reading and stories and all the interesting things out there in books. Whether 20 minutes of reading as part of homework time after school or getting to choose a favorite book read to all of us kids before bed, reading was some part of our day, and I learned to love it.” ~ Maria Sandvik