Adopt an ATD Fourth World Street Library and we'll send you news about it regularly in 2014. Do it for you or for a loved one.

ATD Fourth World is the US branch of the International Movement ATD Fourth World. Our projects focus on the sharing of knowledge among people of different backgrounds in an atmosphere of mutual respect and dignity. We then seek out and create forums where the voice and experience of those in poverty can influence public opinion and policy.

What do kids need to learn? Schools emphasize academic learning, but researchers are starting to talk about how “soft skills” help kids get along with others, concentrate more, and keep going when things get hard. They learn these skills the best when they’re young, but schools - always under pressure to improve test scores - often don’t focus on them. Kids growing up in poverty face lots of stress every day and that can prevent them from learning these soft skills.

Street Libraries engage children and parents around books, computers, and art in neglected, under-resourced communities. As the Fourth World Movement’s signature project, Street Libraries currently occur in some form in New York City, New Mexico, and New Orleans. Street Libraries developed from the principle of reaching towards a community’s aspirations and the aim of sharing knowledge in the heart of the community.

The format is simple: colorful blankets on the ground, a communal time of reading and stories, followed by an activity promoting discovery, highlighting skills, and encouraging creative expression.

Take a story from New Orleans for example. A boy in the Street Library there started by struggling to sound out the words in a book. He got understandably frustrated when an older girl came up and started reading the same words more easily, and then there was a buzz of activity as all the other kids put down their books and moved to the daily art project. The boy ignored them though and stayed with an adult to keep sounding out the words, one by one.

Kids learn to read in a Street Library, but they also practice not stopping when they’re frustrated, sharing materials with other kids, and trying new things. Street Libraries develop soft skills and the whole child.

But Street Library is not just for children. Teens and adults from all walks of life volunteer their time and imagination to Street Libraries, adults from under-resourced neighborhoods read with their children, teach them how to do pottery, and share their own skills. Everyone contributes to building the community. When kids see parents and other community members learning and working with them, it’s a great model for them to follow.

Every Street Library takes a lot of work: preparing quality activities, organizing volunteers, contacting parents to show them their children’s artwork, reaching out to partner organizations, and evaluating to do even better the next week. Members of our full-time Volunteer Corps organize Street Libraries in New Orleans, New Mexico, and New York. Your donation will help us pay for art supplies, photos, snacks, and living stipends. It will help us keep working with the whole child, the whole family, and the whole community.

(All donations will go directly to the street library, but donation amounts are representative only.)

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