"Henkel's House of Books" - for budding readers - opens in Pine River
Unlike other book boxes, Henkle doesn't want books back.
Linda Henkel may have just retired from the Pine River-Backus School District after 47 years, but she's not done helping kids learn to read yet.
Not only is Henkel getting background checks and other legwork out of the way to possibly continue volunteering with the school district, she now has a book box outside her home behind the Pine River American Legion where children can come and get books to keep or to share with other new readers.
"I always thought reading was so important," Henkel said. "When I first came to Pine River in 1974, I didn't have any books. That was my second year of teaching, so I went around the school collecting all the old series books and had the kids take them home, read them and bring them back. To motivate them over the years, I would give them baseball cards, stuffed animals, Beanie Babies and at one time I had remote control cars. After reading so many books they could take the remote control cars up and down the hallways."
Henkel has long admired the little lending library boxes popping up in communities everywhere. She told some people that she'd like to have one someday, so she was more than elated when the people she has worked so closely with for years built one for her.
" I don't know how I'm going to stop collecting books, because I just love books. When I go to garage sales or when the libraries are having their Friends of the Library book sales I can't stop. I feel that kids need books to read every day and I'm hoping they pass on my books to friends so the books reach more children. I might even have another library built. "
— Linda Henkel.
"The last day of school they brought it," Henkel said. "I was excited because I've got all these books and I've been thinking of having someone build one for me so I can get rid of the books I've collected the last 47 years."
In so many years of teaching, Henkel has accumulated - and continues to accumulate - books to keep the little box full. Unlike other little lending libraries, she doesn't want them back. That's how fourth-grade teacher Carla Goddard and others thought up the name "Henkel's House of Books."
They had to reveal the project to her early because it was only one of a number of names, and they wanted Henkel to choose something she liked.
"Much of last year Linda was distance learning and we really became close," Goddard said. "I really wanted to do something special for her. She loves books, she loves reading and she loves kids. She has hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books, so we were talking about it and she said she was brainstorming maybe giving books to the kids. I started thinking about this lending library I've seen in other cities. I thought it would be neat for Linda to have a library where she could give kids her books and the kids could take and enjoy them. And with the library being in her yard, she could still have that connection with the kids and PR-B families and the community when they stop by to look at books."
Teacher Jordan Ackerman built the box and they ordered a sign for the box. Each book comes with a sticker inside that reads:
"Miss Henkel's House of Books
The more that you read,
the more things you will know. The
more that you learn, the more
places you'll go! - Dr. Seuss
Enjoy the book and then pass it on to a friend!"
Henkel ordered 3,000 stickers. She doesn't know how many books she has to give away, but she has plenty and they keep multiplying.
"I don't know how I'm going to stop collecting books because I just love books," Henkel said. "When I go to garage sales or when the libraries are having their Friends of the Library book sales, I can't stop. I feel that kids need books to read every day and I'm hoping they pass on my books to friends so the books reach more children. I might even have another library built."
"Her goal is to get all the books into kids' hands," Goddard said.
In addition to continuing to foster good reading habits, Henkel is excited that the library gives her the chance to see and meet with the kids. She lends her ear to children who want someone to listen to them read.
"If I'm outside I'll wave to them and say hi, and I even have two children coming and sitting at my patio to read to me every week," Henkel said. "Then we play a game. It takes about an hour to read and play a game, then the parents pick them up and away they go."
Henkel is virtually legendary among the PR-B teachers who worked with her, some of whom may have had Henkel as a teacher. This is just one taste of the appreciation they have for her.
"She has been such an inspiration to the staff at PR-B as well as the kids," Goddard said. "Her dedication is just amazing. I wanted to do something special for her because we appreciate her."
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.