Student from Catholic Partnership Schools with the book ark she codesigned

Kids + Books + Art, Part 2

With support from the Domenica Foundation, children from Catholic Partnership Schools are making free books available in their Camden neighborhoods. Above, Tina stands next to the Sacred Heart School book ark, which she helped design.

Over the summer, children from Catholic Partnership Schools designed and painted book arks that were delivered to them last spring. Last week, we joined them in installing their book arks on sidewalks near their schools. 

If you’ve been following our blogs, you know that book arks are the brainchild of Tom Martin, founder and director of Camden County Pop Up Library (CCPUL). CCPUL brings books to low-income communities through temporary pop-up libraries at community hubs and permanent book arks in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Our grant to CCPUL funded empty book arks, Spanish-language books to add to the donations that make up the bulk of CCPUL’s collection—and the opportunity for CPS children to get involved!

“We love working with individual community partners,” said Pepe Piperno, Domenica Foundation founder and president. “But we love finding synergies even more! Funding 10 new book arks in Camden  was great. Connecting Camden County Pop Up Library with Catholic Partnership Schools to decorate and place those book arks—that feels really sweet!”

Terina Hill, the art teacher at Sacred Heart, told us how her students benefited from the book ark project. She had groups of students design each of the four sides. Then they painted structures, but they didn’t always paint the side they designed. In this way, she said, “they learned to work together and trust each other.”

Holy Name School student placing books in book ark
A student helps to fill the Holy Name School book ark with titles other children will enjoy.

Art teacher Ronnie Rhea involved students in all grades at St. Cecilia School. Students in grades 5-8 brainstormed about books and their community to spark ideas. Those students submitted designs, and children in the younger grades voted on the base color, blue. “It was a unifying experience,” said Ms. Rhea. “It was really important [to students] that we did not just have books in English, but books that those living in the community could read, Spanish and Vietnamese.”

Brian, the eighth grader who designed Holy Name’s book ark, said that he liked the work “because it lets me use the gift God gave me.” He said he hoped that people in the neighborhood would look at the art, “grab a book, and maybe…take a picture… and post it so people know it’s there.” 

Other students also valued how their work would benefit the community. Veronica from St. Cecilia said, “I hope not just school kids but other people who can’t always get to a library can see the book ark and enjoy reading the books.”

“I love how the kids were thinking about this project,” said Elena Piperno, Domenica Foundation executive director. “Mostly they focused on their own work and how proud they were, but they also were excited to be giving away books to their neighbors who might not have easy access to a public library. They’ve ‘caught’ the spirit of giving that motivates the Domenica Foundation.”

Watch a video of the installation.

photo of Pepe & Elena Piperno with schoolchildren and their book ark
St. Cecilia students surround their book ark, with Pepe and Elena in the middle.
photo of Elena & Pepe Piperno and Tom Martin of Camden County Pop Up Library with Holy Name School children and their book ark
Holy Name students with their teachers, left, and Elena, Tom Martin, and Pepe, right.