On Oct. 24, partners in the “Manchester Reads” initiative unveiled the newly renovated library at Manchester PreK-8. The library renovation is the first step in a three-part initiative aimed at improving literacy in the Manchester community.

MANCHESTER READS—Second grader Jamaine McCune reads a book in the newly renovated library. (Photo by J.L Martello)

“All of you are witnessing the beginning of something huge for our community,” said Manchester Principal Theresa Cherry. “Our children don’t have a library nearby in their community. This is all possible because a community came together in the belief that the children who need the most, deserve the most.”

The “Manchester Reads” initiative is being lead by Educating Teens Inc., an organization designed to educate pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults about the deadly impact of the HIV virus and other sexually transmitted infections. A picture posted online of a nearly empty bookshelf at the original Manchester library inspired the renovation.

“If a person can’t read, that impacts health literacy,” said Kezia Ellison, president of Educating Teens Inc. “I come from a place of health so we have to make sure all kids are proficient in reading.”

Additional components of the “Manchester Reads” initiative will include having adults from the community read to students in the elementary school and a marketing campaign where adults will be featured on posters with their favorite book. The final component will be to have Manchester’s middle school students read to the elementary students.

“I think we’re ready to keep moving forward,” Ellison said. “This is not just about showing up and making a scene.”

Educating Teens partnered with Sam’s Club and CORO Pittsburgh’s NEXT Leaders Northside program to complete the library renovation in three weeks. Representatives from Sam’s Club were responsible for repainting the library as well as installing new lights, carpeting, shelves, furniture, and a circulation desk.

“This is something we enjoy doing,” said Tim Martin, a representative from Sam’s Club, who lead the team. “We had an opportunity to talk to the sixth grade student about their goals and their dreams and what they want to do and I thought that was great.”

Other contributors included PerLora interior designer Craig McDonald, illustrator Dave Klug who created a mural at the library, and Manchester Craftsman’s Guild photographer Kahmeelah Adams. Hundreds more people contributed by donating thousands of books.

“A lot of the time, the students feel like they’re left out, like they don’t get things that others do, so they’re very excited,” said Ronniece Sirmons, a six-year teacher at Manchester with 16 years of experience in the Pittsburgh Public School District. “It’s definitely a boost in morale for the kids at the school.”

Last year 49 of the district’s 59 schools had a library. Only 15 of the district’s libraries have a full time librarian.

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