Text and photos by Monica Charette
Storytime is part of most preschool and kindergarteners’ day, but it’s made even sweeter when a book is read outside in the sun, surrounded by flowers, friends, and topped off with jelly donuts.
“I am kind when I share my ice cream with my friend,” kindergartner William Mitchell shares with his 14 classmates from Atwood Primary School who came to learn about spreading kindness at the Oakland Public Library on Friday, September 20, as part of the opening of “Cassidy’s Corner,” a new outdoor reading space created by the ShineOnCass Foundation.
Kindergarten teacher Maggie Solis read aloud author Maria Dismondy’s kindness book, The Jelly Donut Difference, while her students and a group of homeschool and preschool-age children gathered around the new stone platform in the corner of the building outside of the library’s children’s room. Kids discussed ways they could be nice to their family and friends, and shared how they can help others in need. The group sampled jelly donuts and created ShineOnCass “Kindness Matters” bookmarks, leaving messages of how they will shine tucked away in children’s books for unsuspecting readers to find at the library.
“It’s a special day when we can shine Cassidy’s light by sharing her message of kindness and her love for reading with young children,” Mrs. Solis told the children after leading a discussion about the book’s characters and asking how each student there can show kindness today.
Cassidy’s Corner was developed to support the Library’s summer reading program and give local families a place to read outside throughout the year. Monica Charette, Cassidy’s mother and executive director of the foundation, said the project was a labor of love for the community that has supported their family the last five years.
“Cassidy’s love for reading was nurtured at a very young age at the Oakland Library,” Charette said. “Seeing children enjoy books and share their ideas about spreading kindness in the world fills our hearts. This is how Cassidy’s Light shines on.”
The project also includes plans for a free-standing “Little Lending Library” in the community, where families can borrow books after library hours. Funding for the project came from the ShineOnCass Foundation, with support from Waterville Area Women’s Club and an “Employee Ideas that Matter” program at SAPPI, in Skowhegan. Additional in-kind support was provided by Get Etched, of Portland, which created the ShineOnCass garden marker, and stonework by Somerset Stone and Stove, in Oakland.
The idea for Cassidy’s Corner came from Oakland Librarian Sarah Roy, who knew Cassidy since she was a toddler attending summer reading programs 20 years ago. Cassidy was a longtime member of the library and devoted community volunteer. She lost her life tragically at the age of 17 in a hayride accident in 2014. The ShineOnCass Foundation was created by her family to celebrate her life and legacy of kindness by supporting local programs and organizations close to Cassidy’s heart, and to encourage youth to give back to their communities.