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2017 Montana Center for the Book Prize

Wild Rose Center

April Chalfant-Martin

When April Chalfant-Martin became the director of the Wild Rose Center, she hung a sign on the door that read, “Enter as guests and leave as friends.” Nestled in the Wolftooth Mountains on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation and bordering the Crow Indian Reservation, the community and women’s retreat center strives to develop awareness and connectedness across cultures.

April had the idea to install mini-libraries, or "Little Free Libraries," in the five districts on the reservation as a way distribute books for their R-Rez Reads program but didn’t fully anticipate the impact they would have. "The farthest community we reach out to is Birney, 50 miles from the Center, which has no services,” she writes. “No store, no gas, no pay phone (if such things still existed) but they do have a Little Free Library. I see the kids circling on their bikes in the summer, waiting for me to fill it, and I make a special effort to put in daring adventure books. Or books that are crafty and DIY- these are kids who still use their imaginations and I want to foster that excitement of learning something new or laying along the river in the shade when your mind is far away fighting tigers in a jungle."

Inspired by the NEA National Big Read program, R-Rez Reads fulfills the educational component of the Center’s mission, allowing community members to gather "and discuss books, share knowledge and creatively collaborate." The Little Free Libraries utilize a “take a book, return a book” philosophy that has proven very effective. "We are making our community a unique place with this program," she adds. "We are always on the lookout for books for all ages and love to take discards and duplicates from area libraries."

The Wild Rose Center was selected for a 2017 Center for the Book Prize for providing engaging learning opportunities on the Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation that has reached people from multiple generations and cultural backgrounds. "The Center for the Book [Prize] helped to validate the work being put into the Little Free Libraries through the eyes of those not familiar with life in rural, Southeastern Montana,” April writes. “The use of books, reading and knowledge is just a small component of what the Center is capable of. We hope that we can create small changes that help to have big impacts within the community and those surrounding it."

Learn more about the Wild Rose Center and how to donate books to the Little Free Libraries on their website.