Merced birdhouse libraries promote literacy

aibarra@mercedsunstar.comJuly 10, 2014 

Large, bright-colored birdhouses are being placed throughout Merced County, but they aren’t meant to shelter birds; instead, they lodge children’s books.

The birdhouse libraries, as they are referred to, are the result of a collaboration between the Merced County Human Services Agency and the Merced County Library to promote literacy.

Books, donated by library and HSA staff, are placed inside the birdhouses for children to borrow or keep at no cost. The birdhouse libraries are placed in underserved areas, Merced County HSA director Ana Pagan explained. The goal, she said, is simple: give children something interesting to read.

“It’s based on an honor system,” Pagan said, “and people respect that because it is something that is available to them with no questions asked.”

There are currently five birdhouse libraries in the county: two in the Beachwood-Franklin area; one on R Street, past 10th; one in the Loughborough area; and one in South Dos Palos. Another birdhouse will be placed at the Planada Community Hall next week.

Pagan said she got the birdhouse library idea from a magazine article about a similar program in the Midwest. “I thought to myself, ‘We need this in Merced,’ ” she said.

The building and painting of the birdhouses were all done by HSA staff members and their families using donated wood and materials.

“This is just a fun way to encourage reading amongst young people,” Pagan said. She said staff members plan on placing a few more birdhouse libraries in the near future.

“We don’t want to inundate the county with these birdhouses, but we do plan on placing some more in areas where a library isn’t as close by,” Pagan said.

Children’s books in good conditions are always welcome, Pagan said. Anyone interested in donating books can do so at the HSA office, 2115 W. Wardrobe Ave., or at any county library branch.

Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or aibarra@mercedsunstar.com.

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