Little Free Library, the nonprofit organization that promotes literacy through unconventional projects, has launched of its newest initiative. Working with Colle McVoy, a Minneapolis creative agency, Read in Color will distribute books on racism and social justice, as well as books amplifying BIPOC and GLBTQ voices, through LFL's mounted containers. Read in Color is being launched in Minneapolis because LFL is headquartered in the greater metro area, but also because of the city’s association with George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Pending local funding and community support, LFL intends to expand Read in Color to other metro areas nationwide.
There are four components to the Read in Color initiative: the caretakers (called stewards) of LFL-branded book boxes as well as patrons are encouraged to sign a pledge to read and share diverse books; stewards can apply to receive free books appropriate to this initiative for stocking their library boxes – although this component currently is available only in the Twin Cities metro area; book lists being made available representing Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Muslim and LGBTQ voices for all ages that were developed by LFL’s Diverse Books Advisory Group; and LFL will maintain little free library boxes filled with culturally relevant books in high-need communities in the metro areas participating in Read in Color.
The first dedicated Read in Color little free library box was unveiled on October 14 outside Urban Ventures, a Minneapolis nonprofit working to end poverty that is headquartered in South Minneapolis. "We are excited to partner with LFL as we look forward to aligning our mission around literacy,” Benny Roberts, Urban Ventures’ v-p of youth development stated in a release. “We'll have community members seeing themselves as protagonists in books. It’s a beautiful thing to envision having books that reflect the community they’re in."
LFL anticipates distributing 5,000 books in the Twin Cities metro area through this initiative. LFL also is supporting indie booksellers by purchasing diverse books from indies with BIPOC owners whenever possible, like Birchbark Books, owned by Louise Erdrich, and Black Garnet Books, a new online company that is Minnesota’s only Black-owned bookstore. It is also buying books from indie allies in the Twin Cities area, like Moon Palace Books.
LFL director of communications Margret Aldrich pointed out that the organization has more than 100,000 LFL book-sharing boxes across the country and plans to expand Read in Color to Washington, D.C, and Chicago next since it has a strong presence in those metro areas.
“We are incredibly proud to partner with Little Free Library on this wonderful project, which developed from the pain and heartache we felt after the death of George Floyd in our community,” Christine Fruechte, CEO of Colle McVoy, stated in a release. “We want to be a force for change by helping provide reading material to people who want to expand their knowledge on racial justice, and promote inclusivity through access to diverse perspectives and experiences.”
“Little Free Library believes everyone should be able to see themselves in the pages of a book,” LFL executive director Greig Metzger stated. “We also believe a broader awareness of the diverse life experiences in America can break down barriers and nurture a deeper understanding of our society’s inequities.”
LFL is also working with several publishers to supply books, most notably Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Jackie Bright, HMH's corporate social responsibility program's senior manager, wrote in an email that HMH's Books for Equity initiative provides access to books and educational materials to communities in need; in recent months, the company has donated 50,000 books and media titles exploring race issues to nonprofits serving families, children, and students around the country.
"When the opportunity arose to participate in the Read in Color initiative, we were thrilled to be able to donate more than 4,000 HMH books by Black authors," Bright wrote, "We share LFL's essential goal of amplifying diverse voices and stories. Partnerships like these help us share powerful perspectives and foster dialogue."