BILLINGS — In an effort to promote childhood literacy in Billings, staff with RiverStone Health unveiled a brand new Little Free Library on its campus at the corner of Second Avenue South and South 26th Street on Wednesday.
The idea for the project was sparked by Dr. Chris Miller, a faculty physician at RiverStone Health, and brought to fruition with the help of two other resident physicians.
“We all put our heads together working on this, and I had the idea to put it together and I had the two of them really make the design for it and we all worked together on getting it built," Miller said.
Miller said he originally had the idea in November 2019, when he came back to RiverStone after previously working as a hospitalist at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. Miller did his residency at RiverStone from 2011 to 2014.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit and the project had to be called off for awhile but came together in about six months from design to completion.
Anyone can pick up or drop off a book at one of approximately 33 Little Free Libraries across the Billings area. The addition of the library on the RiverStone campus makes three total on Billings South Side. Click here to view a map.
Materials for the project were purchased through RiverStone Reads, a program that sends every child home with a book who comes to visit the RiverStone Health clinic, dentist, family health, or immune clinic, Miller said.
“Adding the library to campus is certainly is a way of trying to help make sure that we are furthering that idea with literacy in the community," Miller said.
Miller said the new library and the RiverStone Reads program provide more access to books for families. The act of parents reading to their children as young as one year old can be good for parent/child relationships and cognitive development, Miller said.
“Before they can really understand or participate in language, they have that time for developing bonds, feeling that safety, having emotional bonding and growth between parents and the kids. And then as they get older, certainly having more language development as a part of that reading time with family and interface with books. Being able to hold a book, even if it’s not reading, can certainly help promote the ability to work with books growing up and getting into school," Miller said.
The RiverStone Reads program is funded by donations and its yearly fundraising event, the Scrub Run, coming up this weekend. The starting gun will fire on Saturday inside South Park at 9 a.m. for the 5K run through the South Side. The Kids' Dash starts an hour later at 10 a.m.
Along with the in-person race, people also have the option to participate virtually. To learn more and find links to sign up or donate, click here.