Have you passed by a Free Little Library where you live? Have you borrowed a book or donated one for others to read and enjoy?
Free Little Libraries began with a man named Todd Bol. He built a little library to honor his mother who was a school teacher. The first little library was designed to look like an old, little red school house. Free Little Libraries are now in all 50 states, 108 countries and as of last year when a library was add to Antarctica, all 7 continents.
The concept of Free Little Libraries are simple: Take a book, leave a book. I remember first seeing a little library while on vacation in Florida. I was fascinated by this adorable little library filled with books as people walked to and from the beach. A few years went by and they started popping up in our town. In 2019, I got permission from my school principal to install a library at the elementary school where I teach. Now, I knew what I wanted it to look like and what color I wanted to paint it, but I had no idea how to actually make that happen. Cue my wildly talented husband Chad, father of our children, illustrator of our upcoming book, and woodworker.
Chad and all four of his brothers are Eagle Scouts. The Dankert men are who you would like to travel with you if you’re ever stuck on a deserted island, find yourself in vast desert, or any other remote place with limited supplies. Chad quickly began researching and then sketched his design. He bought the materials and then the library quickly took shape in our garage. The kids and I helped sand it, paint it and install it.
There is a direct relationship between the amount of books in a home, whether purchased or borrowed from a library, and the vocabulary of a child. There is something known as the “million word gap.” A 2019 study found that “young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to.” Ohio State University. (2019, April 4).
Let’s think about that for a minute. 1.4 million of anything is incredible. When it said five books a day, remember that many books read to children before kindergarten are board books, concept books and have shorter text due to attention span. I see parents reading in the cars while waiting for a soccer practice to end, in doctor’s offices, at the libraries, and our family favorite, before bedtime. Sneaking in five books a day is work, but you are giving your child a potential 1.4 million more words. This will hopefully increase their love for books, realization that books have meaning, whether for learning, humor or exploring emotions. There will be an increase in vocabulary understanding and comprehension.
Little Free Libraries have the power to positively promote literacy in communities. I get excited when I see people taking from or adding to the little libraries. I get excited when students, some who aren’t even in my class, tell me that they love the book they found in our school’s little library. I get excited when I see bikes parked on the sidewalk while children are “shopping” for the next library book treasure.
I received two amazing compliments regarding the little library. The first came from our district’s former superintendent. He wrote me a letter, that I will keep forever, congratulating not only me but my husband and children on sharing the love of reading in our community. The second came from a book lover in town, who I have yet to met in person. During the pandemic she would check on all of the little libraries in town to be sure they were stocked. With her own family, she ended up building a little library to honor her mom who was retiring from education. Their special library was modeled after ours.
If there isn’t a Free Little Library in your area, I encourage you to reach out to local youth groups, Scouts or high school shop classes to see if they would create one for your town.
Take a book, leave a book. Just keep reading.