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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Building Community with Little Free Library

Dec 26, 2019 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine

All Access

January 2020
Story by Rachel Trigueiro

READING IS SHOWN to lower levels of stress, help with depression and focus, strengthen writing abilities, enhance imagination and boost sleep. 

Children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind the reading ability of children who live in homes with a lot of books. According to Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization, one of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books.

Little Free Library states that 61 percent of low-income families do not have any age-appropriate children’s books at home. Their mission is to inspire a love of reading, while also building community and creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

When Marie de Jong of Visalia was visiting Cayucos about two years ago, she came across a free library and fell in love with the idea. Knowing she wanted to create something similar, she researched and signed up with Little Free Libraries and was given a registration number, making the location accessible to anyone.

Once her library was built, de Jong notified friends, family and neighbors to contribute books and the idea took off fast. “We have at least one customer a day,” she says. “It’s a very active library.”

In addition to providing reading materials, the free libraries connect neighbors and build stronger communities. The organization says that 73 percent of people say they’ve met more neighbors because of a Little Free Library.

Thankful for her neighborhood, de Jong discusses the diverse community partaking in their library – retirees, daycares and families taking their nightly walks. The library is for all ages, with books ranging from self-help and romance novels to Dr. Seuss and books about sports. Her particular library even carries coloring books, cookbooks and magazines. 

De Jong says the greatest gift came Halloween night when they received countless thanks from folks in the neighborhood for their charming library. 

Engaging with other libraries in the community is an added benefit, de Jong says. “A couple times a month, we travel on our bikes to deliver or swap out books to other Free Libraries in Visalia. We grew up reading, learning our nursery rhymes, and kids seem to be missing that today. We wanted to bring that back.”

Alison Lee of Fresno says Little Free Libraries are a simple way to get involved in the community. Lee manages and maintains the free library at her local church, North Fresno Mennonite Brethren. “I love books and reading. It is such an enriching experience for all ages. Our church seeks ways to engage our neighborhood and find practical ways to serve individuals. The Little Free Library is one way of doing that, so I was excited to be a part of offering this free resource to our community.”

When the late Todd Bol created the first Little Free Library, he envisioned a Little Free Library on every block with a book in every hand. He believed people could fix their neighborhoods, their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.  •

Rachel Trigueiro,  twin mom of four, loves adventuring with her family, especially near the beach. She holds a degree in business, but believes living in other countries and cultures offered her the greatest education. She dreamed of being a talk-show host; now, she enjoys story telling and drinking blonde coffee.