Little Free Libraries
By Kerri Regan
Seven-year-old Dylan Ramont is captivated by the Chronicles of Narnia series, especially “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” His brother Evan, 3, can’t get enough of Grover’s antics in “The Monster at the End of This Book.” They think all kids should have the opportunity to fall in love with reading - and their family is helping to make that happen.
The Ramonts are among more than 50 families or organizations that have adopted “Little Free Libraries,” and they’re looking forward to stocking theirs with books for all ages that they can share with friends and neighbors.
The Shasta Early Literacy Project, the Redding Masonic Lodge and Camping World built about 50 of the libraries last spring, and they’ve all been adopted by people, businesses or organizations who agree to decorate them and make them available in their neighborhood. Folks can come borrow a book they’d like to read, and ideally leave one behind for someone else to enjoy.
The goal is to make it even easier for families to read for at least 20 minutes a day with their children—or “Take 10 and Do It Again,” as the literacy project’s slogan encourages. Books are stocked by the library “owner,” often from their own children’s outgrown books, though many have found great deals on children’s books at yard sales and thrift shops.
“We really want to build early language and literacy skills in young children so they’re ready to learn for kindergarten,” said Jennifer Snider, program manager for First 5 Shasta. “A whole segment of society doesn’t have books in their home. This was a way to get the community involved in understanding the importance of reading 20 minutes a day and to get books out there and available.”
Charlene Ramont plans to paint her little library to match her house —gray with white trim and shingles—and she’s been saving her sons’ books as they outgrow them so they’ll have plenty of books to place inside.
“I didn’t start reading to my kids from day 1—we sang and talked,” she says. “But when they turned 1, we started reading to them every day, and I can honestly say that not a day has gone by that we haven’t read something to our kids. It’s never too late to start.”
The Ramonts visit the Redding Library weekly, and Charlene’s husband, Tom, “loves the communal aspect — you check a book out, you enjoy it and you share it with others,” Charlene says. “ We want our neighbors to have the access to books that we do, and I hope to get to know some of my neighbors this way. I think that the more you get to know your neighbors, the safer you feel and the happier you’ll be. It’s just a little box full of books, but I hope it will build community.”
If you’re interested in hosting a library but didn’t didn’t get one of the Shasta Early Literacy Project’s originals, never fear—you can go to littlefreelibrary.org, check out pictures of little libraries from all over the country and get inspired. “Some are cabinets, some look like old newspaper racks—there are plans on the site so people can build their own,” Snider says.
Snider’s family also has a Little Free Library. “I’ve been a lifelong reader. My parents did a good job of encouraging me to read, and I feel like I’ve always had a book,” Snider says. “When I had my son, I always read to him. I knew I could sit with my baby and read a book and he’d sit still in my arms. I live in a community where families don’t necessarily have books for their kids, and this is another way to support the development of our community. I’m really pleased with how the community has embraced this idea.” •