Little Free Libraries – those wooden pedestal boxes filled with copies of The Hunger Games and slightly beloved picture books – began popping up in neighborhoods of Twin Cities ten years ago. Now over 100,000 strongholds, the tiny book-sharing stands have been a hit in our cities and around the world. But after George Floyd’s death and the unrest that followed, the Hudson-based Little Free Library nonprofit team knew it was time to get more intentional about their offerings. âOne thing we can do is nurture and enable a better understanding of the variety of views in this country through reading,â said Executive Director Greig Metzger. Last fall, the team launched its Read in Color initiative, which brings an array of diverse books (depicting BIPOC and LGBTQ + characters and authors) to 20 Read in Color Little Free Libraries around the Cities. And so far they are a hit. You can ask local kids for confirmation, but they are too busy reading.
Books on books
The Little Free Library team is committed to stocking each Read in Color site with 175 books in its first year – after that, they hope communities continue to stock them with the appropriate titles. (Visit LittleFreeLibrary.org for details.) In addition to wholesale purchases and publisher donations, the team buys books from local stores like Black Garnet, Birchbark, and Moon Palace. So far they have obtained over 5,000 copies.
It’s my favourite!
The titles range from So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo (a 2018 title that hit the New York Times bestseller last summer) at Anti-racist baby by Ibram X. Kendi. âThat one never stays in the box for long,â says Roberts.
Who is represented?
Color Reading Libraries offer books for all ages and reading levels, but focus on children’s books and picture books. It’s crucial: According to a study published by UW – Madison, less than 25% of children’s books include racial and ethnic characters (black, Latin, Asian / Pacific Islander, or Native American), while 50% include white type .
The first Read in Color library was opened outside of Urban Ventures, a nonprofit organization in southern Minneapolis. âIt’s exciting to welcome books that resemble the kids in our community,â says Benny Roberts, vice president of youth and career development for Urban Ventures. “Our books are simply read by children and their families.”
Location, location, location
The Small Free Read in Color Libraries in the Twin Cities are strategically placed around the city, primarily near schools and nonprofits that work with children and families. Metzger says the program will soon be extended to other cities, such as Washington, DC; Boston; and Ferguson, Missouri.