Fostering Literacy and Building Community Through Little Free Libraries

Daily Point of Light # 7775 Mar 25, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Mason Furman. Read his story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

In the neighborhoods across Hallandale Beach, Florida, a movement is growing, aimed at tackling the literacy crisis head-on. Mason Furman, the passionate cofounder of The Furman Literacy Project LLC, is at the forefront of this endeavor. Recognizing the profound impact that reading and access to books can have on a child’s development, Mason has dedicated himself to bridging the learning gap among the youth in South Florida.

With more than 60% of K-12 students in the United States struggling to read proficiently at their grade level, the need for innovative solutions to the literacy crisis has never been more urgent. Mason’s approach focuses on the simple yet powerful concept of increasing access to books, especially for children.

Through grants and partnerships, Mason has successfully created, built and deployed several free-standing structures known as Little Free Library book-sharing boxes. These libraries provide free books for all ages and create an environment where reading is celebrated. Since its inception, The Furman Literacy Project has made significant strides in promoting literacy in Hallandale Beach. With three Little Libraries already installed in local parks and a fourth on the way, Mason’s efforts have transformed these green spaces into hubs of learning and discovery.

With more than 2,000 books collected and approximately 1,000 park visitors reached each month, the impact of The Furman Literacy Project is evident. Mason’s dedication to fostering literacy, building community unity and expanding access to books has certainly established him as a young changemaker in South Florida.

Learn more about how and why Mason is passionate about creating a legacy of literacy and hope for future generations.

Tell us about your volunteer role.

In 8th grade, I embarked on a journey with a local organization focused on enhancing literacy among elementary students in underserved schools. Witnessing the stark reality of low literacy levels among these children ignited a passion within me to make a tangible difference. This led to the inception of the Furman Literacy Project, aimed at instilling hope and empowerment through literacy improvement initiatives. As a co-founder, my responsibilities include managing four Little Libraries which I have installed in Hallandale Beach, Florida parks. Weekly, I replenish these libraries with donated books that I receive from local libraries and the community.

Why is this issue so important to you?

The Furman Literacy Project addresses a critical societal issue: the literacy gap among young learners. Shocking statistics reveal that lack of proficiency in reading by fourth grade significantly increases the likelihood of negative life outcomes, such as being on welfare or imprisoned. Early intervention through literacy programs is imperative to shape a brighter future for our youth and society as a whole.

The Furman Literacy Project has seen more than 2,000 books collected in the libraries so far.

What inspired you to get started with this initiative?

When I was young, I never saw the value in reading. I saw reading as a waste of time, sitting around inside all day, when I could be outside with friends. Why spend hours reading a book when I could watch a movie and be done much faster? My parents had to constantly nag me about reading: “Mason, sit down and read your book” or “Mason, you can’t leave until you finish this chapter.”

It wasn’t until I did my first book report that I saw the value of reading. I saw how my classmates were listening to my every word. They were transfixed on my voice and the pictures on the page. I learned that books could inspire thought, educate people about a subject, open up new worlds waiting to be explored and be a respite from everyday life. I learned to love reading and wanted to share that passion with my community. That was how the Furman Literacy Project, LLC was created.

What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization?

The impact of my project may not be immediately visible, but the long-term effects will be substantial. Providing children with access to reading materials will give them the basic tools they need to succeed in school, most importantly inspiring the love of reading and education. The Furman Literacy Project is a continuous effort to improve literacy in our community. My long-term goal is to get other local businesses to donate funds to purchase additional Little Libraries that will be installed throughout the entire city of Hallandale Beach, Florida, with the hopes of expanding to other cities.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding aspect of my work with the Furman Literacy Project lies in witnessing the sheer joy and excitement on the faces of the children we serve as they explore our Little Libraries and select their next adventure in the form of a book. Seeing them engrossed in reading, whether under the shade of a tree or on a park bench, transports me and fills me with pride knowing that we are fostering a love for learning and personal development.

These moments underscore the profound impact of literacy on young minds and serve as a reminder of the transformative power of access to books. Each book borrowed represents a step towards a brighter future, not just for the individual child but for our community as a whole, reinforcing the significance of our mission and the importance of our collective efforts.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

Through my experiences as a volunteer, I have gained valuable insights and learned essential life lessons. Volunteering provides me with opportunities to learn and enhance various skills. Whether it’s communication, teamwork or problem-solving, volunteering helps me grow. I continue to learn about my strengths, weaknesses and values. Volunteering reinforces the idea that collective efforts lead to meaningful change. Overall, getting involved with causes that I care about empowers me to make a difference, build stronger communities and create positive change in the world.

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

Engaging with causes we care about enriches our lives and strengthens our communities. Whether through volunteering, advocacy or philanthropy, contributing to meaningful causes fosters a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It empowers individuals to play an active role in shaping a better world.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

For those considering volunteering, start by identifying your passions, strengths and areas of interest. Begin gradually and avoid overcommitting yourself. Explore existing opportunities within your community, but don’t hesitate to create your own initiatives if none align with your interests. Remember, volunteering is a fulfilling journey of growth and contribution to collective well-being.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Mason? Find local volunteer opportunities.

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