How Pop-Up Libraries Are Encouraging People To Read Without Screens

While e-readers may offer convenience and portability, there’s no feeling like the heft, weight, and smell of a good old-fashioned paper book. Throughout the United States, free libraries are popping up outside homes, businesses and schools, or inside cafes, airports, and vacant storefronts. The concept is simple: Take a book or leave a book, with no money or library cards required.

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In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, put up the first Little Free Library. To honor his schoolteacher mother, Esther, who loved reading, he built a small model of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books and placed it outside his home under a sign reading “Free Books.” The Little Free Library movement rapidly gained momentum, and soon small libraries began popping up all over the world.

According to Little Free Library, their mission is, “To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.” William Littig, of Salt Lake City, agrees, saying, “It animates the neighborhood and builds a sense of community and literacy.” He and his wife Pamela estimate that, in the span of two years, they’ve given away nearly 2,000 books from the Little Free Library outside their own home.

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Little Free Libraries don’t have a set catalogue of books. They rely on the donations of people; thus, the variety is endless. One library may hold a treasure trove of mystery novels, while another may contain books about science or history. This variety encourages diversity in reading, especially when readers begin leaving their own books for others to discover. By sharing books that interest them, donors may inspire new readers to try books they might never have picked up on their own.

All over the country, low-income children have little to no access to age-appropriate books in their homes and schools. Even if you don’t have a Little Free Library of your own, you can help fight illiteracy by donating to First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing age-appropriate books to children in need.

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