Pictured from left to right: Jennifer Riehman (Assistant Principal at Thomas Jefferson), Larry Sasso (Principal at TJ), Jack Purcell (Scout), Sara Rossi (Reading Specialist at TJ)

Pictured from left to right: Jennifer Riehman (Assistant Principal at Thomas Jefferson), Larry Sasso (Principal at Thomas Jefferson), Jack Purcell (Scout), Sara Rossi (Reading Specialist at Thomas Jefferson).

Junior Jack Purcell plays on Saint Viator’s varsity basketball team and for the Shooting Stars AAU team during the offseason. So it should come as no surprise that when brainstorming over an Eagle Scout project, he tossed around sports-related ideas first.

Instead, he wound up pursuing a project that involved his love of building with another passion: promoting reading.

Jack was a star attraction at a dedication ceremony at Thomas Jefferson School in Hoffman Estates, when administrators unveiled their new free little library—made and anchored to the school by Jack.

Wearing his Scout uniform and towering over the young students in attendance, Jack explained his project to the crowd on hand, which included Hoffman Estates village officials as well as administrators with Palatine Township Elementary District 15, and student families.

The new little library looks like a small house, but inside are donated books—in both English and Spanish—that may be taken by youngsters and adults alike from the surrounding community.

“The idea is to take a book, leave a book,” Jack said.

The little library movement was started in Wisconsin in 2009, and with this latest edition—soon to be registered with the Little Free Library organization—there will be more than 36,000 around the world.

Students from Thomas Jefferson placing books in the Little Free Library.

Students from Thomas Jefferson placing books in the Little Free Library.

“I had thought about collecting sports equipment for underserved children, but when I heard about this, I thought it was great.”

“I like building things,” he adds, “and I thought it was a great opportunity for children to love books—and promote literacy.”

He crafted the library out of Honduran mahogany, before adding copper roofing and a shiny lacquer that gives it a glossy shine.

“I thought it turned out well, especially after I applied the lacquer,” says Jack, who is a member of Troop 29, based at St. Anne School in Barrington.

He already is working on a second one, to be installed in the laundry room of the East Park Apartments in Rolling Meadows, where some of the Thomas Jefferson students live.

His project entailed not only the building of the libraries but fundraising for materials. Members of his troop helped him carry out a car wash at the school, which helped get the word out.

Larry Sasso, principal of Thomas Jefferson School, commended Jack—and Mrs. Sara Rossi, the reading specialist who spearheaded the project.

“Not only will this project encourage a love of reading,” Sasso said, “it will also promote a wonderful sense of community.”