While you’re making dinner this evening, an hour or so before sunset, look out your kitchen window. You’ll see more walkers, joggers and cyclists than usual taking in springtime air and breaking the monotony of life indoors. I’m one of them.
On such jaunts, I’ve rediscovered one of my favorite aspects about Lafayette. A tiny detail that feels like a secret even though it is a nationally implemented measure. Once you know, you see it everywhere: The Little Free Library.
Little Free Libraries are exactly what they sound like: tiny structures that provide a take-a-penny leave-a-penny approach to literature. You’ll see them in the Saint Streets more than anywhere else, though I’ve found one in River Ranch and others near Bendel while on my bike. You’ll know you’ve found one when you spot a little house on a post, too close to the street to be a birdhouse, with a glass door to peer inside.
The contents to each library vary with a revolving door of options. Supple-spined paperbacks that most certainly brought an action story to the beach paired next to a child’s pop-up book with supersaturated shapes. The rogue classic given new life against a guilty pleasure. Poetry collections dog-eared and dissected by highlighter and lines of ink.
There is something undeniably wholesome about the honor system’s role. The books require no card with no stamped due date, and barely suggest that you, one day, leave something of your own for another explorer. The main concept of The Little Free Library is to promote reading, obviously, but by bringing the library within reach of those within the community.
Earlier this year, the Little Free Library earned the honor of the 2020 World Literacy Foundation’s World Literacy Award. More than 30 million adults cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Books in the hands of children have a meaningful impact on improving literacy. The more books in or near the home, the more likely a child will learn and love to read.
According to a 2018 report from The Advocate, 20 percent of Louisiana residents are illiterate, shutting the door not only to endless stories but endless opportunities. The national average is 15 percent. With quarantine shutting down in-person schooling, bookstores shuttered and libraries only offering drive-through pick-up options, the thrill of browsing for books is on hold – and so many more resources are cut off from those who need it most.
Quietly, the Little Free Libraries provide an unexpected source of inspiration during this time. Locating one is second-best to finding a novel you’ve been meaning to read or discovering something new. Contributing a work is mailing a treasure to an address to-be-determined by the recipient. It’s a silent conversation.
Although you can find the locations online, I encourage you to simply explore. Should you decide to place a Little Free Library outside of your home and promote literacy within the state, visit littlefreelibrary.org