Summit Charter opening little libraries in school garden

Aspire Summit Charter Academy Principal Jamey Olney pulls a book to read from one of two tiny library boxes mounted in the school garden in south Modesto on Thursday.
Aspire Summit Charter Academy Principal Jamey Olney pulls a book to read from one of two tiny library boxes mounted in the school garden in south Modesto on Thursday.

A south Modesto charter school has two tiny, honor-system library boxes sitting in its student-tended garden, enticing young readers to sit awhile and soak up some sun along with the stories.

Aspire Summit Charter Academy, at Hatch Road and Central Avenue in the Ceres area, will officially open its Wendy’s Words Little Libraries at 8:05 a.m. Friday , with a visit by “Good Day Sacramento” expected to air about 9:30 a.m., said Principal Jamey Olney.

The two brightly painted boxes, one for beginning readers and the other for third- through fifth-graders, sit amid a sunburst of small raised gardens. The rumpled dirt sprouted weeds and tulip stems in the last gasp of January but will be filled with vegetables and flowers soon by classes of the kindergarten- through fifth-grade school.

Students helped create a reading space with a small border wall, the materials donated by the local Home Depot. Teachers and staff donated the books, painted the boxes and mounted them to fence post poles.

“It’s meant to be kind of an oasis, a calm people place,” Olney said, leafing through a paperback. Students and families will be able to pick out books at recess and before and after school. “It’s a leave-one, take-one system,” she said.

Each box has about 50 paperback and hardcover books, each with a special sticker honoring Wendy Wayne, a Bakersfield public health nurse and Kern County planning commissioner who died at age 64. Wayne volunteered in Africa, teaching and administering vaccinations, and in post-Katrina Louisiana.

As commencement speaker in June 2011, a year before her death, she told graduates of California State University, Bakersfield, that she had led “a very magical life.” Her words live on, captured in the bookplates on the inside cover of every book.

“Commit to something bigger than yourself. Volunteer, perform random acts of kindness at least weekly, and remember – it feels good to make other people feel good,” urges the first of 10 goals for readers.

Another tells readers to take risks to enrich their lives. “Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Walk as if you have a pebble in your shoe – be just a little bit uncomfortable and try new things,” says No. 8.

Olney’s mother, a teacher, knew Wayne through a friend, making the project a personal vision for the principal. The Summit libraries are the first in the Modesto area. The website lists 35 others, most in Bakersfield, done up fetchingly as phone booths, birdhouses and other imaginative containers.

The Summit garden reading space also honors those who died from its own school community, a student who died five years ago from brain cancer and two staff members’ spouses, Olney said. The area, with its small reading benches, will be a quiet memorial of sorts.

But youngsters staring at the boxes as their line to recess passed were focused on Friday. “They’re excited. They can’t wait,” Olney said.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.