Inspired by the police killing of George Floyd, the nonprofit Little Free Library (LFL) is adding diverse authors and stories to its thousands of free library boxes across the globe, starting right here in the Twin Cities.
You may have seen them around, in front of houses and along sidewalks: birdhouse-like boxes containing books free for the taking, so long as you leave one behind in exchange. After a decade of the program, there are more than 100,000 worldwide.
Anita Merina, LFL national board chair, says the program’s new initiative, called Read in Color, will diversify the contents of those boxes. In the Twin Cities, that means distributing 5,000 new books that reflect authors, stories, and characters of all identities for readers of all ages.
“As a first-generation Filipino American, I’ve spent my lifetime loving books but rarely seeing myself in them or hearing voices like mine until recently,” Merina says. “And as someone who has spent my career showcasing diverse books, I am so proud that Little Free Library will be reaching readers and connecting communities in such a meaningful way with the Read in Color program.”
Read in Color launched locally on October 14, in collaboration with Minneapolis ad agency Colle McVoy, and plans to expand nationally and internationally in the months ahead. As a result, boxes around the Twin Cities now carry books that provide perspectives on racism and social justice, and celebrate BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) and LGBTQ voices.
Titles include the kids’ book The Most Beautiful Thing by local author Kao Kalia Yang, as well as non-local works like I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez and So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
Along with the books, installations of new book-sharing boxes are planned for high-need communities, both locally and nationally. The initiative will also make recommended reading lists available; offer bookmarks and signs to those who sign a public pledge to read more diverse books; and send books to LFL stewards who apply.
LFL has purchased its culturally focused books from BIPOC-owned independent bookstores when possible, including Birchbark Books, owned by local luminary Louise Erdrich, and Black Garnet Books, Minnesota’s only Black-owned bookstore.
The Twin Cities’ first new installation is located at Urban Ventures, a Minneapolis nonprofit working to end poverty.
Click here to sign the pledge to Read in Color and start your reading list.