For hundreds of years, the American front porch has been a significant cultural catalyst. This is particularly true in the South where warm weather allows for, and often mandates, time spent in the protective shade. Porches are for lingering and storytelling; they offer an opportunity to share our worries and our joys. The front porch has become a place of communal reflection and a way to connect with one another.
Writers often use the front porch as an important symbolic element. Readers find it’s a perfect place for contemplative page turning. Rhonda Harden, media specialist at Bond Elementary School, believes that a front porch can bring literature to the next generation of book lovers. She has built one in her library for students to enjoy, thanks to the generosity of Target and local volunteers.
“It’s a media specialists’ dream to create your own space,” Harden said, and that’s just what she did when Bond constructed a new school in 2006. She knew she wanted a special reading nook that was unique and echoed the neighborhood. “When I looked around, I saw all these front porches and I thought, we could do that.”
“When I was growing up, I lived in the same place all my life. I know that security made a difference for me. Our babies, a lot of them don’t have that.
Our population is very transient, they move a lot. I want the kids to have that feeling of home. This reading porch brings a certain amount of consistency and with that, a certain amount of comfort. I want them to always want to be here.”
Second-grader Xi’Marra Parks, a proud relative of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, appreciates the reading porch for exactly these reasons. “We get to read any books we want. We have a comfortable place to be in and I feel really safe.” Harden is delighted to provide a nurturing place for emerging readers and she recalls how reading affected her own life. “It opened up a whole new world,” Harden said. “That’s how I went places.”
Her second-grade students can relate to that sentiment. Kyra Thomas said, “When I read and I see something that I want to do, I visualize me doing it.” Hope Washington agreed and added, “It feels like I’m in the story.” Ji’Raiya Jenkins said that reading “makes me feel excited,” and her classmate Kemani Glasco said, “When we read books we learn stuff that we use later.”
Harden’s first job out of high school was at a library. “It was the best job ever, I could get in there and just read, they’d let me read all I’d want.” Sincethen, she has held many different jobs with the school district and she’s been recognized for her excellence in the classroom. “I’ve been teacher of the year a couple of times, and I was the district winner one year for distinguished educator but I like being called library lady best.”
Her efforts extend beyond Bond’s library as she encourages students to carry the culture of reading into their lives outside of school. “At every opportunity, I’m looking for ways to build libraries at home, even if it’s a shoebox.
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