Bella Veilleux at ShineOnCass Lending Library. Contributed photo

WATERVILLE — The newest community “Little Free Library” to pop up in central Maine is shining a light on youth literacy.

It is putting books into the hands of more than 350 children who attend the afterschool care program at the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA at Alfond Youth & Community Center in Waterville. The ShineOnCass Lending Library was installed this week, just in time for National Reading Month.

Christine Johnson, child and youth development director for the AYCC, called the lending library a creative and meaningful way to support local kids.

The ShineOnCass Foundation designed, created and donated the 6-foot, bright yellow, floating sun bookcase to hold hundreds of lending books. Contributed photo

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the ShineOnCass Foundation to bring this special lending library to the families and youth” of the center, Johnson said, according to a news release from the foundation. “Through this joint endeavor, we hope to build community, while promoting a love of reading for all ages.”

Children can select a book of their choice to borrow, read it at home or at the club, and either return it, or share a different book by replacing it with one of their own. The foundation designed, created and donated the six-foot, bright yellow, floating sun bookcase to hold hundreds of lending books. The foundation was created to spread kindness and promote youth volunteerism in memory of Cassidy Charette, an Oakland teen who died in a hayride accident in 2014.

“Cassidy was an avid, lifelong reader. Her love for books began before she could even read the words in them,” said Monica Charette, Cassidy’s mother and executive director of the foundation. “What better way to honor her, than to share that passion with other children.”

ShineOnCass Lending Library sign. Contributed photo

The lending library shelves are already filled with a variety of age-appropriate books provided by the center. The foundation donated a collection of books promoting kindness, inclusion and diversity, as well as children’s books from local author Jeanine Deas that address childhood grief, and a book about isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Charette family also donated some of Cassidy’s personal books to the collection.

The library will accept donations of new books throughout the year to keep the shelves full. “Providing another resource for families to have free access to a diverse collection of books, we hope, will only enhance a child’s motivation to read,” Charette said.

“We want to generate and support lifelong readers, just like Cass.”

For more information about the ShineOnCass Lending Library, or to donate books, visit shineoncass.org, email [email protected] or call the center at 207-873-0684.

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