As an educator, student Lori Littlefield was concerned that schoolchildren in her rural Maine community had limited resources available to keep up their reading skills over summer breaks. So in the summer of 2013, she launched Reading Rescue, a grassroots effort that uses a converted ambulance to bring books to children in far-flung areas.
Littlefield, who graduated in May 2014 from the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, is a technology teacher and librarian at Mount Abram High School in Salem, Maine. Having researched the phenomenon of student reading regression during summer vacations, also called “summer slide,” she saw the same pattern in the reading scores of her own school district’s students.
While she had always allowed her high school students to borrow up to five books from the school library for the summer, the district’s kindergarten through eighth-grade schools were unable to do the same. “I knew I needed to create an appealing way for that age range to be inspired and learn to love reading again,” Littlefield said.
So in spring 2013, with the help of her family, she bought a used ambulance on a payment plan, gave it a makeover, and collected more than 1,800 used books. Between June 18 and Aug. 10 that year, Reading Rescue gave 638 books to about 180 children, tweens and teens in area recreation programs. Most of the children who received books were between pre-kindergarten and fifth grade.
“All of the funds were from family members, friends, and myself,” Littlefield said. “I wanted to focus the first year on making a difference, and not starting a foundation or nonprofit.”
In April 2014, Littlefield presented a Reading Rescue workshop to Maine librarians at their Reading Round Up annual conference. “It allowed me to share Reading Rescue’s story, the greater need, and how each librarian can make a difference by being flexible and willing to try something new,” she said. “The future of library service is beyond buildings with books. We must meet patrons where they are, even if it means visiting the park, playground or beach.”
Reading Rescue’s Facebook page helps keep fans abreast of its latest news.
A desire to teach led Littlefield to leave an accounting career when her children were young and earn a bachelor’s in elementary education, graduating cum laude from the University of Maine in Farmington. She took graduate courses to earn credentials in K-12 technology and gifted and talented education.
She has now been a high school technology teacher for the past 15 years and her district’s only certified librarian, based out of its regional high school, for the past four years. The school district offered to pay for her to earn an MLIS degree so she could transfer into a district librarian position. Littlefield began our school’s MLIS program in fall 2010.
Littlefield envisions someday having a fleet of Reading Rescue rigs -- one to serve every county in the state. “All of our children, tweens and teens deserve it,” she said.
And though she sees her future career path as always involving serving students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, she added, “I also have a passion for oral histories, photographic collection preservation, and information literacy, so I find the idea of a private or academic library to be a future interest.”
“Reading Rescue would not have been realized if not for the inspiration of several SLIS instructors. Dr. Joanne de Groot provided the subliminal messages of the critical need to respond to summer slide in her [LIBR 285] Research Methods course, which taught me more than I would have ever found on my own. Dr. Michelle Simmons, through her [LIBR 254] Information Literacy course, taught me to relax and make learning more fun, so that I was able to be myself and really enjoy the Reading Rescue delivery experience.”
Maine School Librarians (MSL); American Library Association (ALA); Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA); Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC); American Association of School Librarians (AASL)
“In 2013, while a member of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), I participated in their national conference and had the good fortune to meet more than 50 YA authors. My experience of meeting authors, then bringing back their stories and that excitement, led to a greater energy and more positive feelings about reading here at our high school.”