Read in Color: Announcing Little Free Library’s Diverse Books Initiative in Minneapolis

By Margret Aldrich

We are thrilled to announce the launch of READ IN COLOR, a timely initiative bringing diverse books to LFL book-sharing boxes across the country and around the world. [TAKE ACTION: Sign the Read in Color pledge!]

Kicking off in Minneapolis, the origin of social unrest this summer, Read in Color will distribute books that provide perspectives on racism and social justice, celebrate BIPOC and LGBTQ voices, and incorporate experiences from all identities for all readers. Watch the video below.

“Little Free Library believes everyone should be able to see themselves in the pages of a book,” said LFL Executive Director Greig Metzger. “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 National Board Chair Anita Merina concurs: “As a first-generation Filipino American, I’ve spent my lifetime loving books but rarely seeing myself in them or hearing voices like mine until recently. And as someone who has spent my career showcasing diverse books, I am so proud that Little Free Library will be reaching readers and connecting communities in such a meaningful way with the Read In Color program.”

Equity and inclusion are long-held values at LFL, but following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis—not far from our Hudson, Wisconsin office—we vowed to do more to raise awareness. This summer we held book giveaways, highlighting diverse authors; hosted inclusive celebrity story-time videos with PBS Kids; and promoted stewards filling little libraries with diverse books, like our friend Sarah Kamya in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Read in Color extends these efforts through four key components:

  • Read in Color pledge. LFL stewards and patrons worldwide can sign a pledge to read and share diverse books. Pledges have access to resources, including bookmarks, stickers, social media badges, and a Read in Color sign for Little Free Library doors.
  • Free diverse books. LFL stewards can apply to receive free diverse books. LFL will purchase books from independent bookstores, BIPOC-owned when possible, or source from publishers.
  • Recommended reading listsBook lists representing Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Muslim and LGBTQ communities are available for readers of all ages. Advisors including We Need Diverse Books; The Brown Bookshelf; indigenous scholar Debbie Reese; and author and LFL steward Roxane Gay helped shape these lists.
  • Little Free Library installations. We will establish new Little Free Library book-sharing boxes filled with culturally relevant books in high-need communities, beginning in the Twin Cities and expanding nationally. The first of these libraries was unveiled on Oct. 14 at Urban Ventures, a Minneapolis nonprofit working to end poverty.

“We are excited to partner with Little Free Library and Read in Color as we look forward to aligning our mission around literacy,” said Benny Roberts, Urban Ventures’ VP of Youth Development. “We’ll have community members seeing themselves as protagonists in books, parents reading to their children and kids practicing reading. It’s a beautiful thing to envision having books that reflect the community they’re in.”

Throughout the development of the Read in Color initiative, we received invaluable support from Minneapolis-based creative agency Colle McVoy.

“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,” said Christine Fruechte, CEO, Colle McVoy. “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.”

We anticipate distributing 5,000 diverse books in the Twin Cities metro area, with additional cities to follow. Titles include The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander for kids, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez for teens, So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo for adults, and more. We are buying books from local independent bookstores like Birchbark Books, owned by Native American author Louise Erdrich, and Black Garnet Books, Minnesota’s only Black-owned bookstore. We are also working directly with publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which donated hundreds of books for distribution.

With more than 100,000 Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in urban, suburban, and rural locations in all 50 United States and beyond, we believe Read in Color will help amplify diverse voices at a grassroots, community level. Join us! Sign the Read in Color pledge and learn more!

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