West Chester, PA –United Way of Chester County will begin outfitting eight of their existing Born Learning Trials with kid-sized Little Free Libraries, just in time for spring.  Thanks to a grant by CCRES, Little Free Libraries, designed to promote reading with a “take one, leave one” approach, will sprout up at Chester County outdoor activity locations, beginning with the West Chester, East Goshen and Phoenixville trail sites. The libraries will be stocked with pre-k level books as part of the United Way of Chester County’s Early Childhood Education Initiative, designed to assist parents and other caregivers in engaging their young children in early learning activities.

Since 2009, the United Way of Chester County has been building community awareness about the value of early learning through the installation of these trails county-wide including Phoenixville, West Grove, West Chester, East Goshen, Coatesville, Downingtown and Parkesburg areas. Public introductions of the new Little Free Libraries are planned for spring, the first at the annual Easter Egg Hunt in East Goshen Park on April 4, 2015 followed by the James A. Umble Memorial Park in Honey Brook Township later this season.

The Trails are composed of a series of signs and stencils prompting parents or other caregivers and young children through language development activities.  The Little Free Libraries are primarily wood and glass structures that creatively house and promote early reading books. Both the trails and libraries are built, installed and maintained by local business and residential volunteers.

Siemens employees gathered at the Charles A. Melton Center for Arts and Education last Thursday, and helped kick start the Little Free Libraries effort with a group of over 40 volunteers.  Siemens built the foundation, literally, as they spent the day constructing the libraries by hand. Philip Ankel, Partner at Siemens Controlling and Finance Audit, North America said, “It was a special experience for our team to be able to create something that will become a permanent fixture in our local parks for all ages to enjoy together. It’s those personal experiences that impact our employees in a meaningful way and we feel privileged to be a part of that.” Employees from Siemens Controlling and Finance Audit North America and Latin America donated their time and expertise, hammering, drilling, sanding and painting the Little Free Libraries as part of their Day of Caring partnership with the United Way of Chester County.

United Way of Chester County CEO, Claudia Hellebush added “Research tells us children are ‘born learning.’ That means five years of education takes place before they ever enter kindergarten. Early learning is essential to success in school, which is essential to success in life.  We’re excited to have the addition of the Little Free Libraries and thankful to partners like Siemens who help bring these resources to communities across Chester County.”

Studies show that preparing and supporting children to grow into healthy and functional adults begins at birth and quality early learning is a key factor in that development. When adults interact with young children –talking, singing, playing rhyming games – they stimulate language and vocabulary development and build important foundations for learning to read.  The Born Learning Trails and Little Free Libraries as part of the larger Early Education Initiative are strategically focused on touching many lives, particularly in rural or underprivileged communities, and promoting early childhood learning as the norm in Chester County.

For more information about Born Learning Trails and the Little Free Libraries contact Mary Anne Feeley at 610- 429-9400.