Little Free Libraries foster literacy-friendly neighborhoods

Little Free Libraries
Eager young readers at Holdeman Elementary School in Tempe gather in front of a Little Free Library constructed, decorated, stocked and delivered by Shutterfly, Inc. employees in Phoenix. Photos courtesy of Southwest Human Development.

Phoenix dad Jake Adams awoke one morning to find a Little Free Library in his neighbor’s yard. It looked like a big birdhouse, with a clear window in the front, shelves of books inside and a sign that read, “Little Free Libraries—take a book, return a book.”

Adams is chief development officer for Southwest Human Development—a Phoenix nonprofit dedicated to early childhood development and literacy. He quickly recognized the potential of the miniature libraries.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we had Little Free Libraries in lower-income neighborhoods, where access to books is an issue?” says Adams. Children would simply walk up to a Little Free Library, take a book, then return it for another.

Little Free Library is an international movement started in 2009 by a Wisconsin teacher who loved to read. Today, there are more than 32,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world.

Adams hopes the greater-Phoenix community will build and stock at least 100 more.

Little Free Libraries start as kits constructed by local carpenters and are sent to volunteers at organizations around the Valley. The kits are assembled, decorated and stocked. The organizations choose where to place them in the community—or can ask Southwest Human Development where they will do the most good.

Employees from Shutterfly, Inc. in Phoenix turned kits into well-stocked Little Free Libraries at several schools around the Valley, including Holdeman Elementary School and Thew Elementary School, both in Tempe.

Little Free Libraries
Employees from Shutterfly, Inc. in Phoenix took on a community project to build Little Free Libraries for local schools.
Little Free Libraries
The finished product, ready for books—and curious, young readers around the Valley.

Little Free Libraries include literature for families about early childhood resources available in their area.

Adams says Little Free Libraries also contribute to a sense of community. “We ask the community to take care of them, which includes repairs and keeping them stocked with books,” says Adams. “People bring their families to get books and they meet their neighbors. I’ve seen in my neighborhood where people come out to say hi and gather around the Little Free Library.”

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