by Robin Kemp

Thanks to the efforts of the Women of Clayton County civic group, the number of “little free libraries”–small book-giveaway boxes usually styled like houses and decorated by their owners–doubled overnight.

On March 2, WOCC members teamed up with CCPS’ Elementary English Language Arts Department and CCPS Maintenance to place 12 of the brightly-painted book boxes at campuses from southwest Atlanta to Hampton. These new, user-friendly book giveaway stations will greet students as they return to in-person learning in the coming weeks.

Kids at Kay R. Pace School of the Arts check out the new Little Free Library donated March 2 by Women of Clayton County (CCPS Photo)

Coordinator Ebony Brown, Clayton County Board of Education Chair Jessie Goree, and CCPS Superintendent Dr. Morcease Beasley took part in the ribbon-cutting at Kay R. Pace School of the Arts. Others who contributed to the Little Free Libraries installation include We Paint with Nadia, East West Bank Foundation, and Home Depot of Riverdale, Lovejoy, and Morrow.

Ebony Brown, CCPS Coordinator for Elementary English Language Arts, welcomes the Little Free Library at Kay R. Pace School of the Arts, March 2, 2021

“The Little Free Libraries belong to the entire Clayton County community,” said WOCC President Dr. Donna Jackson. “It’s our hope that these Little Free Libraries will bring more joy, more connection, and a whole lot more books and reading to our community. We want to inspire our children to read by giving them access to books.”

The Little Free Library movement combats “book deserts” by placing free books within easy access of underserved communities. According to the nonprofit’s website, “more than 30 million adults cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Studies have repeatedly shown that books in the hands of children have a meaningful impact on improving literacy. The more books in or near the home, the more likely a child will learn and love to read. But two out of three children living in poverty have no books to call their own.

Todd Bol and Rick Brooks founded Little Free Library in 2012. Bol, who died in 2018, placed the first Little Free Library in Wisconsin, “in honor of his mother, a schoolteacher and lifelong reader.” When he saw how many people fell in love with his creation, a movement of like-minded individuals was born. Today, more than 100,000 Little Free Libraries in over 100 countries are putting books in readers’ hands.

People who build or install Little Free Libraries can register them with an unique ID number and join a community of other “curators,” who are responsible for keeping the boxes in good shape.

Bol’s brother, Tony, now runs a similar organization called Share With Others, which expanded the front-yard giveaway concept to little free pantries for food donations and “blessing boxes” for other items that people can take if they are in need. The boxes that Women of Clayton County placed bear Share With Others plaques.

No matter which group is behind the box, these eye-catching neighborhood landmarks invite users to slow down, take a book, leave a book, and share the love of reading a book you can hold, smell, turn the pages of, all without the need for a battery charge, in an age when digital media captures most eyeballs.

The Clayton Crescent has compiled a map of these little literary landmarks in Clayton County. Please keep in mind that some are on private property and be respectful while you visit. Also, feel free to straighten up the books if they’ve fallen down. We welcome additions or corrections to this map:

A tour of the county’s little libraries takes you from schoolyards to mansions, from the quirky to the quotidian. Take a look at some of them:

If you want to add one that’s not listed, e-mail us with the name, number if any, address, and a clear photo of how the box looks from the street (for example, if it’s next to a park bench, show enough of the bench and immediate area for people to recognize it).

You can build a Little Free Library and add it to your home, place of worship, community center, or other location. (If you prefer, you can buy a ready-made library or pantry box.) Be sure to check with your city or county zoning office, especially if you’re a “pioneer” in your area.

Consider stocking your Little Free Library with books in other languages like Spanish or Vietnamese, as well, depending on your local area.

If money is an issue, you can apply for an Impact Library Program grant, which supplies the Little Free Library, plaque, and books for you in exchange for a one-year commitment to maintaining the box, holding at least one community literacy event, and responding to any media requests.

To learn more about Women of Clayton County, which “drives positive change in Clayton County through strategic collaborations with our county leaders, businesses, and residents,” visit womenofclaytoncounty.com.

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