In Manor ISD, There's a Trick to Getting Kids to Read Books Over the Summer
This fall, the Manor Independent School District is starting a new kind of lending library: Students will be able to check out and take home backpacks filled with books from their teachers. It’s part of a larger effort to get more books in front of younger students and their families. But, that can be difficult in the small Austin suburb, especially during the summer.
One of the best ways to prepare a child for kindergarten is to read to them. But for many parents in Manor, access to books is limited and expensive. Most schools are closed in the summer. And the city of Manor doesn’t have a public library.
Travis County provides a free building for a volunteer library right outside city limits. It has a hodgepodge collection of books. Betty Shavalov is one of the seven volunteer librarians.
The books are donated or purchased for cheap by one of the volunteer librarians. The library also has six computers, and Shavalov said that’s mainly why people come in. Another volunteer, Jim Lamb, said the hours depend on volunteer availability.
“We had two long time volunteers retire, and we had to cut back on our hours. We’ve got new volunteers so we’re able to stay open to six. That’s a help because parents get off 3:30 or 4, and they have time to come in and grab some books.”
But Tonda Brown with Manor ISD said the current schedule doesn’t work for a lot of their students, 80 percent of whom are poor.
“It’s very limited hours that it actually operates, and even days our parents don’t tend to use it at all. Especially, if we have working parents, they’re not able to access the library. A lot of times because it’s not every day, and certain amount of hours each day, they can’t keep up with the schedule and they tend not to use it.”
If the city wants a fully operational library with longer hours and more resources, it needs help from the city council. Last year, some Manor library volunteers asked the council to chip in. According to minutes from that meeting, Manor City Manager Tom Bolt said the city doesn’t have enough money to fully staff the library.
There are other ways to access free books, but they require transportation. Manor residents can get a library card at the new public library in Elgin, 20 minutes away. They could join the Austin Public Library, but it costs $120 per year for non-residents to get a library card.
But as Manor's population grows, there may be more demand for a public library — and more money in tax revenue to pay for one. The city's population has more than doubled in the past decade, to 13,057 in April 2016. The city projects the population will increase to 16,933 by 2020.