What an innovative idea to promote reading. In Hudson, Wisconsin, in a tribute to his mom, who was a book lover and a teacher, Todd Bol built a miniature little red school house, stuck it on a post in his front yard, and filled it with books to share. Since its inception in 2009, ‘The Take A Book, Leave A Book’ movement, which took off especially in the Upper Midwest, has gone global.
The goal was to create over 2,509 Little Free Libraries to exceed the number of large libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie from 1883 to 1929. It also commemorated a courageous librarian, Miss Lucie Stearns, who between1895-1914 brought nearly 1400 little traveling libraries to different parts of Wisconsin.
My sister, Karen, told me about a Little Free Library (LFL) located a half a block from her house in Golden Valley, Minnesota. While visiting her, we ventured out on the coldest day of century because I couldn’t wait to see it. Under a cobalt sky, the snow-covered, rooftop of a dollhouse-sized hut, brimmed full of books. I would have loved to browse and pick up a book for my flight home, but my fingers froze merely posing for the photo. What an honor to discover that Karen had tucked a copy of my book, Home Sweet Hardwood into her neighborhood library.
I shared the gift of reading, a love passed on from my grandparents and parents, with my children. While growing up, my kids read under the bed covers, in the bathtub, and even à table. During dinner, they sneaked peeks at their books hidden under the dinner table to avoid their father’s scowling eyes. The ultimate taboo in a French family to focus on anything other than food while dining!
Though reading may seem like a lost art and books sales have dropped, surprising The Little Free Library movement is booming. All 50 states and 40 countries have been involved. Grass roots movements to bring books to remote parts of the world and help produce literacy in India and Africa have grown. Hudson High School (Wisconsin) students built mini libraries and shipped them to Africa where local Rotary Clubs installed them. LFL has also partnered with Going to School, an organization which brings books to schools in India. All across the USA schools are joining, like in Minnesota, where the Minneapolis School District, LFL, and local sponsors have combined to bring 100 Little Free Libraries to Northern Minneapolis.
As of January 2014, an estimated 15,000 Little Free Libraries exist worldwide. To find one in your neighborhood, consult the index. LFLs can be found in England, France, Italy, and other European countries, but as far I know none exist in Switzerland yet. However, if I can get past the bureaucratic red tape, I am building one in my front yard, modeled like a miniature Swiss chalet, natürlich.
Join the movement. Take a book, return a book, meet a neighbor, make a friend, build a library, create a community.
In support of Little Free Libraries worldwide, I am giving away a copy of my memoir Home Sweet Hardwood to a commentator whose name will be selected in a random drawing. The winner will be announced next week.