In New York City, Little Free Libraries Share Diverse Books Through ‘Read in Color’ Initiative

By Margret Aldrich

New York City is home to five special Little Free Library book-sharing boxes—one for each borough—highlighting books that feature diverse content, characters, and creators. The neighborhood libraries are part of the Little Free Library (LFL) nonprofit organization’s national Read in Color initiative, which will distribute more than 30,000 diverse books and 100 Little Free Libraries across the country this year.

New York’s Read in Color libraries are being established by LFL in partnership with H.E.A.L.T.H. for Youths’ founder Heather Butts and various local nonprofit organizations. We are grateful to work alongside these outstanding collaborators.

“It is an honor to partner with the Little Free Library organization on the Read in Color initiative, which brings diverse books to Little Free Libraries globally,” said Butts. “Being part of giving individuals the ability to see the world from different perspectives is immensely gratifying. We are proud that the 5 Boroughs initiative in New York City is bringing this program to readers in Staten Island, Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, and we look forward to the true change these Little Free Libraries will bring to the communities where they are installed.”

In connection with each NYC Read in Color library launch, media personality Ashley Bellman of NBC’s New York Live and The TODAY Show interviewed popular multicultural authors, like Peace Medie and Yamile Saied Méndez. Tune in below!

Read on to learn more about New York’s Read in Color libraries, which were unveiled throughout the summer and fall to promote greater understanding, empathy, and inclusion.


Bringing a Read in Color Little Free Library to Manhattan was a treat! The H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths nonprofit organization spent Halloween giving out books and unveiling the special library at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Haven Plaza. (We think free books are much better than free candy!)

Volunteers handed out books to students attending the Uptown Games at the Armory on 169th Street and Fort Washington. This was a free running, jumping, and throwing competition for children in grades 1-8 from Washington Heights and Inwood and their families. Adding books to the event provided an opportunity for healthy minds as well as healthy bodies.

“Huge thanks to everyone at Columbia University/Columbia University Medical Center,” said Heather. “Special thank you to Vice President and Associate Dean of Government and Community Affairs Ross Frommer, Jahneille Edwards, Community Affairs Associate, and Nicholas Hughes, Haven Plaza Programming Coordinator. You are superstars!”

Like the other Read in Color libraries now found in all five boroughs, the Manhattan library features a selection of diverse books to help promote greater understanding, equity, and inclusion.

Author Interview

In connection with the Manhattan Read in Color library launch, Ashley Bellman interviewed Sharina Harris, dynamic author of (Im)Perfectly Happy. Watch it below!


Read in Color Little Free Library grows in Brooklyn! The little library was gifted to the borough in collaboration with the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design and the H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths nonprofit organization. “We have been working with the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design for almost a decade and are proud to partner with them on this Read in Color Little Free Library 5 Borough Project,” said Heather Butts, co-founder and executive director of H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths. “WHSAD has been our hub for creating and building Little Free Libraries for several years,” she continued. “To be able to involve them in this program and to know that they will have a Little Free Library of their own to share diverse books with their students and visitors is a true honor. Thank you WHSAD for all you do and thank you to the Little Free Library organization for making this possible.” Like the Read in Color libraries coming to all five boroughs, the Brooklyn library will feature a selection of books that feature diverse creators, characters, and content from the BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other important communities. Watch a video featuring the Little Free Library at WHSAD, featuring senior Jordan Scotland and Heather Butts!

Author Interview

In connection with the Brooklyn Read in Color library launch, Ashley Bellman interviewed Zoe Oli, nine-year-old entrepreneur and author of Beautiful Curly Me. Watch it below!


Queens has a new “Read in Color” Little Free Library for readers of all ages! The installation is located at the beloved Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Garden, a local gem underwritten by the performer and businessman, and championed by the New York Restoration Project (NYRP). We were delighted to partner with the NYRP on the Queens installation, as well as our friends at Health for Youths.

Like the Read in Color libraries coming to all five boroughs, the Queens library will feature diverse books that reflect many different perspectives in an effort to grow understanding, empathy, and inclusion.

“The ‘Read In Color’ initiative is the right thing at the right time for New York City, and NYRP couldn’t be more proud than to take part,” said NYRP engagement coordinator Jon Crow, pictured above. “Little Free Libraries have brought a kind of charm to our gardens and the communities who care for them, but this initiative really speaks to the moment, and to the resilience of the communities we serve.”

“For too long, communities of color have not seen themselves represented in books, news, or media, and the need to tell the story of the whole community couldn’t be more important,” Crow continued. “We look forward to a continued alliance with this and future LFL initiatives! Well done!!!”

Author Interview

In connection with the Queens Read in Color library launch, Ashley Bellman interviewed Alka Joshi about her excellent book The Secret Keeper of Jaipur. Watch it below!


On July 31, we unveiled the second of five New York “Read in Color” Little Free Libraries at Hostos-Lincoln Academy’s soccer pitch in the South Bronx, a borough that currently has only one bookstore. We were grateful to work with partners the New York City Football Club, City in the Community, and our longtime collaborator Health for Youths. This Little Free Library will be filled with books that reflect many different experiences—the key mission of the Read in Color initiative.

“We know the importance of books written by authors of color and accessible spaces to youth,” said NYCFC Senior Manager of Community Development Prospero Herrera, pictured above. “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing we can combine both in the Bronx starting at the Hostos mini pitch. Thanks to generous partners working together, we believe this library will improve access to books for the community and help NYCFC and City in the Community continue providing free and innovative programming to students and families served by this pitch.”

At the ribbon-cutting, we were honored to welcome special guests Hostos-Lincoln Assistant Principal Vincent Marano; Miss New York, Sydney Park; teachers; coaches; and some fantastic Saturday Night Lights NYC soccer students. Here are a few of the things they shared at the event:

  • Former student and current coach at the Hostos mini-pitch, Nayelly Rodriguez, said, “I was excited for the Little Free Library because I am a bookworm, and love to see a child invested in a book. Many kids in the Bronx are underserved and don’t have access to books or anything at all. Kids in this neighborhood now have access to free books which is a great way to improve their vocabulary, grammar and speaking skills. We live in a world where we speak different languages but literacy gives us  more ways to speak with each other and helps us improve connections within the community.”
  • “We’re happy that NYCFC and Little Free Library and all of the partners are here to make sure students have access to books, soccer and school,” said Assistant Principal, Vincent Marano, Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science.
  • “This is the culmination of a lot of different ideas, but also dreams in terms of literacy and bringing more reading to the Bronx and all five boroughs,” said Heather Butts, Co-Founder and Executive Director of HEALTH for Youths.
  • “We are super happy and thrilled to be working with a partner like NYCFC because it’s critically important that we work with local community partners,” said Greig Metzger, Executive Director, Little Free Library.
  • Miss New York and City in the Community Coach, Sydney Park, commented: “I am glad to be here today and so excited there’s now a little free library at Hostos Lincoln Academy and this lovely pitch where we can play soccer, and support not only our bodies but also our minds.”

Author Interview

In connection with this Read in Color library launch, Ashley Bellman interviewed Yamile Saied Méndez on her book Furia, a young adult novel about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line to follow her dreams. Watch it below!

Staten Island

New York’s first Read in Color Little Free Library debuted on Staten Island at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. The unveiling was part of the community’s inaugural Juneteenth Freedom Festival, featuring music, arts and crafts, historical reenactments, and more. Heather Butts, cofounder of the nonprofit HEALTH for Youths (pictured below right) is championing the Read in Color initiative in New York. Media personality Ashley Bellman (below left) is enriching the program with author interviews in conjunction with each launch.

Author Interview

Here, Ashley Bellman interviews Peace Medie, author of His Only Wife:

November 18, 2021. Read the press release.

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