Katelyn's Free Book Stands in Puerto Rico by Karen

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The Lord desires for each of us to use the gifts that He has given us for the greater glory of His kingdom, but how exactly do we know what those gifts are?  Some people's talents are obvious, but for most, it's something that takes time to figure out.  When my family and I talk about how each of us can best serve the Lord we find ourselves returning to the same question: "What do you enjoy doing?"  Logic says that we enjoy that which we're good at.  If we believe that we're good at things because the Lord has blessed us with the gifts/talents necessary to do those things well, it stands to reason that we can help build the glorious kingdom of God by doing that which we enjoy.  Isn't that great news?      

Ever since Katelyn was a little girl she's LOVED reading.  In fact, I can say with certainty that when she was young we spent more time at libraries than any other place on earth.  Of course, she enjoyed the crafts and other organized activities that libraries offer for kids, but that's not what did it.  Katelyn was enthralled by the seemingly endless stock of books - each of which offered her a chance to think about and see the world in a different way.  I remember Katelyn always insisting that we check-out the maximum number of books allowed, which was around 15 per person.  It didn't matter that Michael was only 3 months old, according to Katelyn he still got to check-out his fair share, which of course she was happy to select for him.  When we weren't at a library Katelyn made sure that she had a bag full of books so that she could take advantage of the downtime.  To be completely honest, there were plenty of times I felt nervous carting around borrowed books, in fear that one would get lost or damaged, but in hindsight, I can see that the Lord gave me the grace I needed to trust Katelyn with this big responsibility.

When our bookworm was in pre-school we often sang her the song "Read Me a Story" from Sesame Street which reminds us all of the importance of reading books to youngsters.  

If you want to listen to this wonderful song for yourself, click on the following link: https://youtu.be/kn41eFHiQN8

As the song teaches, Katelyn began reading to others as soon as she was able. 

Here are a few pictures I found of Katelyn reading as she was growing up.


Katelyn's love for books followed her into missions.  Not only did she dedicate all of her allotted suitcase space to books, but she shared that love with the people in each place we served.  Here's a picture of Katelyn reading to a little girl in one of the outlying pueblos in Peru.   

When we were living at The Lord's Ranch in New Mexico Katelyn helped reorganize their library.  When we were all living in Puerto Rico she worked at a nearby bookstore for free ~ all she asked is that she be allowed to borrow books and promised to return them when she was done.  It was a fantastic arrangement because everyone benefited.  

Now that Katelyn is living on her own she's figuring out what role books/reading will play in her adult life.  Of course, she reads in her free time, but apart from that?  Well, she started a school-sponsored book club at Universidad del Sagrado Coraz√≥n.  This group currently has 35 members who meet weekly to discuss the books that they've chosen.  They also gather socially for various activities.  Outside of school, Katelyn volunteers at a community library that was started over 30 years ago by a woman who shares her profound love for the written word.  One might think that all of this would satisfy our daughter's hunger, especially since she's a full-time student who is working a gazillion hours to pay for all of her own living expenses - but it's not.  Katelyn also helps maintain the free book stands in San Juan.   Have you ever heard of free book stands?  Well, instead of trying to describe what it's all about I decided to interview Katelyn so that you could hear about it from her.  Following are the questions I asked her along with her responses: 

What exactly is a free book stand? A free book stand is a covered space constructed by members of a community that offers people the opportunity to share books.  People leave books whenever they want, and others take whatever they think they'll use.       

How many free book stands are there in your area? At the moment I'm aware of four in my immediate area.  There used to be 5 but one got taken down because it wasn't being taken care of and the community complained about how it looked.  Within about an hour of me, I'd say there are 10 or so because a lot of different schools have started sponsoring them.  My university has a free book stand now too for the students because I started it with the help of the book club.  It's going really well and the students seem to really enjoy using it as a way to share books.  

What do you do to help with the book stand project? Currently, the book club is going to the San Juan Community Library every couple of weeks to pick up the books that have been donated that they don't have room for on their shelves and we take them to the free book stands.  At each stand, we throw out any books that are wet/moldy, organize the books that are there, and then restock the shelves with the ones that we got from the community library.  It's great because the book stands are constantly being filled with new books for the people in the community to read.

How did you get the idea to help out with this ministry? When I was looking for a place to get free books I stumbled upon one of the free book stands near my school.  It wasn't being taken care of very well so after I started the book club at my university I decided that maintaining the free book stands around town would be a great thing for our group to be responsible for...and so we do!   

While we were at the book stand
with Katelyn four different people
showed up to choose books.
Why do you think it's so important that people have access to books? I think the best thing that someone can have is an education and it's important that people are able to think for themselves and make decisions for themselves.  Having a free book stand makes it so that books are accessible to everyone so that everyone at least has the opportunity to learn if they choose to.  When there are no free books available then a lot of people don't have any way to learn new things or expand their minds. 

Are you aware of any other initiatives in Puerto Rico that are aimed at encouraging people to read? There are two different initiatives here in San Juan.  One is the San Juan Community Library which was founded over 35 years ago by an American woman named Cali who has a great passion for reading.  She opened the library to help the people in Puerto Rico learn how to read and also to encourage them to read more.  Since there are no other public libraries on the island reading just isn't a big part of the culture.  Cali feels strongly about giving people the opportunity to broaden their horizons through every different type of literature and has dedicated her life to doing so.  The other initiative is that once a year Puerto Rico sponsors a big expo whereby authors from all around the world come to promote their books.  The books aren't free, but it at least gives people the chance to buy books that aren't usually available here on the island.

Do you have any advice for parents who want their kids to love reading? My advice to parents is to read with their kids and make sure that reading is seen as an important thing for families to do altogether.  For kids that are just learning to read, it's important to make sure they enjoy the time they spend reading with you.  They should feel loved as you're helping them sound out the words that they're unfamiliar with.  Encourage them, and don't focus on their mistakes.  The last thing that I think is really important is that parents should give their kids the freedom to read whatever piques their interest.  There's a quote by JK Rowling that says, "If you don't like to read, you haven't found the right book."  I think that's really true.

I'm excited that Katelyn has figured out a way to use one of the gifts that the Lord has given her to help others.  I pray that you'll consider you're own gifts/talents and assess whether or not you're using them to help build the glorious kingdom of God....which is what He desires!

Thank you for taking the time to read a bit about what the Lord is doing in our lives.  Many blessings, Karen 

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