ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — On a Tuesday afternoon, Dexter and his mom, Ashley Hawkins, grab his blue lawn chair and get ready to escape into a book.
It’s their comfort. A bond that started from day one.
“It was one of those things that I couldn’t hold him all the time so reading to him was something that I kind of went to and that became our go-to,” Hawkins said. “Those books became staples for us and we read them every single night before I would go to bed beside his isolate in the hospital.”
Dexter was born 14 weeks early.
“He was really sick,” Hawkins explained. “It was very unexpected. We didn’t know he was coming so early.”
He spent four months in a Pittsburgh hospital and his mom was by his side. It was a difficult time made easier by giving hands.
“We needed the support of our community and they really showed up for us,” Hawkins said. “One of the things that our community did for us while we were in the hospital was a book fundraiser. Dexter got hundreds of books. We read every single one of those books multiple times.”
Reading became solace.
Fast forward to today and it’s a love they still share and want to share with their community.
“I want Dexter to be able to grow up in this neighborhood loving it,” Hawkins expressed. “I want other kids growing up here to love it and this is just something we can add to it.”
Just like a book takes you on a journey, Dexter’s Lending Library is this mom and son’s current adventure.
As kids grab a new book, Hawkins sees the joy it brings to the neighborhood.
“Some of them will see it and will yell, ‘mom it’s a library,'” Hawkins smiled.
The concept is simple. Read. Return. Repeat.
However, if you love a book, keep it.
“I never want someone to bring back a book that they absolutely love,” Hawkins said. “So if you find that you love that book keep it at home and share it with somebody else and come back and get more.”
The hope is that everyone can find themselves through reading.
“You’ll see in our library there are books about diversity,” Hawkins said. “There are books about all different walks of life and abilities and disabilities and I think it’s always important for a kid to find themselves in a book and love that book.”
Dexter’s Lending Library sits at 2630 Maple Avenue in Altoona, Pa., and has a story of its own. It’s the product of a giving community and those on the receiving end now paying it forward.
Hawkins said she would love to keep the library forever and if it takes off they’ll add another one.
Reach out to Maggie Smolka if you know someone or an organization that’s making it matter in the community. You can email email@example.com or message her on Facebook.