Little Libraries, Big Heroes

Whoooeee, people, I need to keep going with the heroes theme. Just when I think the jerks in this world can’t outdo themselves, they say, “Here, hold my beer.” So let’s duck our heads into another book about the good guys and ignore the yucky ones. This is the heartwarming story of the little free library, those delightful tiny boxes of literary goodness that have popped up all over the world. Todd Bol, the kind soul behind LFL, struggled with reading as a child but his mom was his constant cheerleader, telling him he could do anything. When she passed away, he found solace in honoring her by building the first little free library, a wee one-room schoolhouse put together from pieces of an old door, and installing it in his front yard. Once his teeny schoolhouse was noticed, it became a popular neighborhood gathering place. Bol and a friend decided to build more, but it took going out into different communities to really get folks’ attention. Within a year, 400 little free libraries appeared across the United States. You’ll need a Kleenex before we go any further. I’ll wait… Got one? Okay. Paul highlights three extraordinary examples of the good that little free libraries have done. After Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, a six-year-old girl collected 2,000 books and distributed a box of them to every little free library in the city. She then got one of her own, and it’s still active. Fifteen years later. A librarian established a little free library in El Paso, and with the help of her students, placed more than 50 additional ones around the city, giving families greater access to books in both English and Spanish. In western Uganda, a little free library in a refugee camp served as a resource for people who had fled violence with very little if anything in their possession. Many of them could not read but would learn how, using the books available to them in that little box. See? Told you. Paul’s book isn’t just about the start of the little free library program. The message that anyone can be a hero undergirds the details of Bol’s lovely idea and how it expanded worldwide. The book tells kids who are struggling – not just with reading, but with anything, really – that they, too, have something extraordinary to share with the world. There’s substantial end material, including – you may want to grab another Kleenex – the sad fact that Bol passed away from pancreatic cancer as the book was being finished. Little free library stewards (many of whom are children, by the way) placed white or gray ribbons on their tiny libraries in memory of him, and a gray ribbon has been included in one of the illustrations in the book. You’ll want to go back and look for it, of course. Give this book to a child who needs to know they, too, have something special to contribute. Share this book with a class and come up with a community-minded project, not necessarily a little free library, but something that serves others. Goodness knows we could use more of that.

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