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Henry Barrios

Gene Tackett looks through the books of the first Wendy's Words Library in the front yard of Susan Reep's home. Tackett's wife, Wendy Wayne, passed away last year.

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Photo courtesy of Susan Reep

Wendy Wayne

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Courtesy of Susan Reep

One of Wendy's Words Libraries in front of Linda Sullenger's home.

Some say memories written down and preserved on paper can live on in a sense of immortality. Our thoughts, and the thoughts of others, are forever embedded within a series of words that make up a harmonious combination of letters.

So when the words of Wendy Wayne, a well-known local champion of children's causes who died of cancer last June, were included in books that were placed inside little houses painted with bright colors, the wisdom of Wendy was able to live on.

"We don't always have a chance to fulfill all our fantasies," Gene Tackett, Wayne's husband, told The Californian. "Wendy read to live her fantasies."

Wendy's Words Libraries came about as a way to honor Wayne, while still giving back to the community. Books are donated and placed in the microwave-sized houses so that children in the community can check them out, and return one to the nearby mini libraries.

The libraries scattered across Bakersfield are based on the Little Free Library model now seen throughout the world, but with a twist. Just like the Little Free Library model, Wendy's Words Libraries promote child literacy and the love of reading, but also included inside each donated book's frontispiece are Wendy's words to live by.

Susan Reep, a retired teacher, said she started the project for a few reasons.

"Wendy was my closest friend, and as we all know, Wendy based her life on service to others. Her death booted me into action," she said. "Part of a famous quote from the Rabbi Hillel asks, 'If not now, when?' This seemed to be the time. And when the Liberty High School (students) held a 'pay-it-forward day' the Monday following Wendy's celebration of life, I drew the task of leaving a favorite book somewhere for someone to pick up. Why not leave a library instead, I thought?"

Reep and fellow teacher and friend Pat Johnson culled from speeches Wendy had given to fill the frontispieces of the little libraries, which Dignity Health volunteered to print. Don Ambriz designed the logo based on Wendy's granddaughter Lola, and many other people in the community helped pitch in to continue spreading the wisdom Wendy shared.

Those involved with the project love how the community has come together, and how this has helped promote the love of reading in children.

"I have a bench next to my library and there are kids there every single day reading books. It's terrific fun to watch them," Reep said. "And I've had fun leaving candy canes in the library at Christmas, putting flashcard reading games in, and getting creative. One little girl returned a book with a book report! New books appear and I add frontispieces to them. That's the idea -- take a book, leave a book."

Bakersfield currently has three active libraries, and eight in various stages of readiness. It's a pay-it-forward type of thing that brings the community together and shares the wisdom in Wendy's words in the process.

Donations to the project can be dropped off in the library of KGET-TV, Channel 17 on L Street during regular business hours, or you can send them to Wendy's Words Libraries at 5508 Via Ravenna in Bakersfield, 93312. Those willing to start their own library can receive a sign free of charge from Little Free Library, and be registered into their system.

More information: wendyswordslibraries.org or email susan@wendyswords.org, or pat@wendyswords.org.