Nova Scotia

This tiny library is a huge hit with little readers

A Dartmouth, N.S., couple have celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary by building a tiny free library that encourages kids to read year-round.

After her book-loving father died, this Dartmouth woman decided to 'scatter his books,' rather than his ashes

These children raced off the school bus to grab a book from the free library. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

A Dartmouth, N.S., couple have celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary by building a tiny free library that encourages kids to read as a way of life.

Michelle and Eric Thornhill built a scale replica of an actual house in their neighbourhood, stocked it with donated books, and invited local kids (and grown-ups) to grab a book.

"People will see that and think, 'This is a neighbourhood where people read.' They'll see their friends reading and say, 'My peers are going to read so that's what I'm going to do,'" Michelle Thornhill said. 

It took a year to carefully craft the tiny library. Each window represents a real child's room.

Michelle Thornhill and her daughter Clara give a tour of the tiny library. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

The idea came to Michelle one evening as she walked with her baby daughter Clara. She wondered what it would be like to open the houses up and look inside.

The Thornhills opened the free library at the school bus stop last week. The tiny readers love the tiny house.

"It's at my bus stop and that means I don't have to drive all the way [to the library]," said local kid Jacob, who was still picking out just the right title.

These houses inspired Michelle Thornhill to build a tiny library. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

"I like the house because it's kind of my house, but it's not my colour house," said Myla, whose house inspired Michelle Thornhill. She got The Gingerbread Man.

Alice Thornhill — the couple's older daughter — dove right into her book. "It's about ocean creatures on the cover and I like to study animals because I'm going to be a zoologist when I grow up," she said.

Some children grab a book for their parents, too.

"People love it a lot. The children get off the bus and all run to the library. I've had parents tell me that their kids who used to have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning [now] want to be the first at the bus stop in the morning so they can be the first to have a book," Michelle Thornhill said.

The house is built on a one-inch to one-foot scale. (Jon Tattrie/CBC)

"There's a little bit of competition. Rather than having to reward children for reading, we've made reading into a prize in its own right."

Eric Thornhill said they sourced windows and the door from dollhouse websites and used hand-cut paint stirrers as the siding. They even included dryer and attic vents. 

"The roofing here is emery cloth, again, individually cut as squares and glued on with roofing caulking. These are functioning solar panels that go into lights inside in each of the compartments," said Eric Thornhill. 

The working solar panels power the lights at night. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Michelle Thornhill is an early childhood educator. She and Eric dedicated the library to her father, Laurie Mersereau. 

"My father loved to read. He was full of knowledge, he was full of wisdom. He passed away from cancer in October of 2017, just before my daughter was born. Some people scatter their ashes — we decided to scatter his books," she said. 

At night, it's hard to tell the tiny library apart from the other homes on the street. (Submitted by Michelle Thornhill)

Even a tiny bit of vandalism became part of the library's story. 

"This is a model house. It's also a model [of] generosity and trust. And now it's going to be a model of resiliency, because we've had a tiny bit of vandalism, so we put a tiny bit of security here — Shrinky Dinks security camera warning and an ADT logo," she said. 

Even a bird who rather rudely pooped on the roof couldn't ruin the fun. They plan to build a tiny seagull on the shingles to take the blame. 

The library is dedicated to Michelle's father, Laurie Mersereau. He would give his children large amounts of money with one catch: they had to give it away. (Brian MacKay/CBC)


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