Not Just A Two-Bit Library

Mobile ‘ Quarter’ Store Hooks Plains Elementary School Kids On Books


Daily News-Record

TIMBERVILLE — Plains Elementary School has figured out a lowcost way to pique kids’ interest in reading and keep them coming back for more.

Reading specialist Lucinda Swartzentruber has been helping kids affordably start their own home libraries by selling books for 25 to 50 cents at what’s affectionately known as the quarter bookstore.

Dozens of students swarmed around the mobile bookstore on Friday morning, rifling through bins of books and excitedly exchanging their quarters for labels to write their names in their new prized possessions.

Small Change for Big Change started this spring after Swartzentruber received a $150 grant from the Rockingham Educational Foundation Inc. and $300 from Plains to get started and bought boxes full of used books from Gift N Thrift’s warehouse and other thrift stores.

It was immediately a hit, and she and Principal J.W. Kile say they’ve already seen a huge difference in the students who’ve been buying new books during their monthly visits to the stores.

Kile said the school saw a significant reduction this year in children who were behind at the beginning of the school year because they didn’t read over the summer and regressed. More kids came back at the same level as when they had left for the summer, or more advanced.

He gave Swartzentruber, who is only in her second year at Plains, major credit for leading a project that the whole school believes in.

See BOOKS, Page B2

Plains Elementary School first-grader Isabella Beaver sorts though quarter books at Small Change for Big Change mobile bookstore Friday morning at the Timberville school.

Nikki Fox / DN-R

The ‘Whole School Believes In’ Project


“We’re not going to let this dwindle,” Kile said. “We know it’s a worthwhile project, and we want to see it succeed.”

The key, they say, is giving children a choice of what books they want to read. Not every child has books readily available at home, and it can be expensive to invest in enough to start a library.

By giving kids the power to choose what interests them, and the ownership of paying for it, however low that price may be, reading becomes fun and interesting for them, educators say.

Timberville fourth-grader Raven Lowery, 9, for example, wasn’t a huge fan of reading books before Swartzentruber opened up shop. But on Friday morning, she was one of Swartzentruber’s helpers and said she wants to tell all other children to read, too.

“It’s annoying when you get to read the same book over and over again and you don’t even like it,” she said, explaining why she didn’t like reading before.

But she and other fourth-grade bookstore helpers with similar experiences say school is easier now that they’re reading every day and enjoying it. Raven recently came across a book about math and, because she was bored, started learning division.

“The change in attitude from before, that’s what’s gives me goose bumps,” Swartzentruber said.

Swartzentruber takes the quarters to the bank after the shop closes for the month and turns right around and buys more books with them. It isn’t about the money, though, and if kids visit the shop and want books but don’t have quarters, she’ll let them take one anyway.

“It’s about putting the books in their hands,” she said.

Eventually, Swartzentruber hopes the bookstore will become a reward teachers can give their students for demonstrating good reading skills.

Right now, the bookstore is more popular with younger kids than the higher grades, but Swartzentruber and Kile say they think it will start to become “cool” once younger students who already love it grow older.

Swartzendruber also wants to provide more chapter books for the older students, because there are fewer ones available at thrift stores that suit their interests.

Joshua Williams, another of her 9year-old fourth-grade helpers, said his own library has grown considerably since the bookstore started, and other students’ have, too, because they can buy books so cheaply.

Hearing him say that, Swartzentruber said, “that was worth my whole day.”

The school will take donations of lightly used books that are of interest to kids now — nothing that’s so outdated the kids won’t want to read it — and money to put toward newer chapter books and series for older students.

To donate books, email Lucinda Swartzentruber at Checks may be made out to Plains Elementary School at 225 American Legion Drive, Timberville, VA 22853.

Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574 6290 or

Plains Elementary School first-grader Dimitri Howard signs his name in a 25-cent book he purchased at Small Change for Big Change mobile bookstore Friday at the school.

Nikki Fox / DN-R

Copyright © 2014 Daily News-Record 09/27/2014

Reposted with permission.