Our driveway is right near the busiest school bus stop in the neighborhood. It would be the perfect spot for a Little Free Library, I’d been thinking for some time now.
We’ve got a growing stack of books downstairs – books I thought we should hang on to in case we’d ever get a Little Free Library.
Then in mid-May we came home from the Little Free Library Festival at Minnehaha Falls Park with a brand new one. I’d won it by writing about why our neighborhood would benefit from a Little Free Library: we’ve got all ages of kids loitering nearby between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. whenever there’s school, and most walk past our home again after getting off the bus at the end of their school day. Many of the kids have limited access to books in their homes, and I expect that new books to read are even fewer and farther between during summer break. Because access to books is a strong predictor of academic success, this Little Free Library would have the potential to improve the academic attainment of lots of kids.
Last week we drove to Hudson, Wisconsin to pick up the post and post topper for the Little Library. Thanks to my husband and a helpful neighbor with the right tools, the Little Free Library is now installed. They did it when I was away at work on Monday. Standing there near the driveway, that Little Library made me smile as I pulled into our yard.
“Charter number 37,184,” the mail carrier read from the official charter sign as he was dropping off our mail that day. His Little Free Library over on Western Avenue has a charter number in the 8,000s. How the numbers have grown since he installed his…
Earlier this week I passed out invitations for our grand opening, taking the opportunity to explain the “Take a book. Share a book.” principle of Little Free Libraries. Then we put a reminder on the driveway this afternoon.
Most of our guests are from an event-oriented culture, so kids started showing up before 6 p.m. We had lawn games ready. We had books to peruse, including the two new children’s books in the Karen language published by St. Paul Public Library. The oldest girl read a page of the Karen script, which simply looks like a baffling assortment of curlicues to me. We had summer reading program brochures from the public library. I asked the girls near the table if they’d been there. “We don’t have a car,” one noted. So the brochures all stayed on the table.
A little after 6 p.m., they asked me about cutting the ribbon, but I said we should wait 20 minutes. “Twenty minutes is a long time,” one boy complained.
But we found things to do. One child asked about the laundry basket of stuffed animals. So then we began a game in which each person got to try tossing balls into the target bowl. The stuffed animals were the prizes, I told them, if you get three in. “For real?” one asked.
“Yes, for real. You can keep the stuffed animals.” Suddenly a line formed. Every kid wanted a turn except my boys – they had no interest in winning back one of their own stuffed animals.
Just before it was officially time to start, I walked down the row of apartments on our street and invited the people who were loitering about outdoors to come to the party at the end of the street, where our house is. I read Inside This Book: (are three books) by Barney Saltzberg. I had selected it because of its kid appeal and because of the last line in the book, “Because books are better when they are shared.” Then we had our ribbon cutting. It happened so quickly I didn’t get a very good action shot.
Kids scrambled to grab a book from inside and stood or sat to peruse their selections while I got the ice cream out of the freezer. The books were quickly set aside once we started serving root beer floats. As the kids were leaving, one friend pointed out that the library was still full. Apparently, I hadn’t explained very well that they could take a book home, so most of them put the books back. One girl asked me if she could take the princess book, but maybe most of the others didn’t really get it.
As the last guests were leaving, one of my sons noted, “No one except Karen people came. Why?” And he wasn’t far off – of about 30 people who came, 29 were Karen.
“Maybe because they’re the friendliest,” I said. As I pondered it a bit more, I wondered whether it’s because their schedules aren’t so packed that they have time to join an impromptu party with a little bit of homemade fun. Or could it be they’re from a culture that understands the value of getting to know your neighbors?