In neighborhoods around the world stand thousands of Little Free Library boxes, where anyone can take a book and leave one behind for someone else to read and treasure.
Now the nonprofit organization has launched “Read in Color,” an initiative to ensure its mini libraries include diverse authors, stories and characters.
“After the murder of George Floyd, we started looking at ways we could contribute to change and we saw our stewards around the country feeling the same way and sharing diverse books in their Little Free Libraries,” spokeswoman Margret Aldrich told CNN. “We really believe everybody should be able to see themselves in the pages of a book and we know that we can all learn a lot from reading books about other perspectives.”
Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May. His death sparked nationwide protests and a racial reckoning.
The initiative was launched in Minnesota’s Twin Cities on Wednesday — Floyd’s birthday — with the addition of 5,000 books that celebrate diverse identities — including Black, Muslim, Native American and LGBTQ voices.
The books were added to Little Free Libraries in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and the project will slowly expand across the country in targeted locations, specifically low-income communities, as the project continues to grow.
“We recognize that there are places in our country and communities where book access is problematic, especially books that reflect the faces in these communities,” executive director Greig Metzger told CNN. “It’s all about what we can do to help create a better sense of understanding of the variety of people in our country.”
The “Read in Color” initiative comprises four key components, with the first being the Read in Color pledge. Anyone can sign the pledge and make a commitment to read and share diverse books.
The second component is free diverse books, which stewards — or the local free library caretakers — can apply to receive when they sign the pledge. When possible, the books are purchased from minority owned bookstores.
The third is a commitment to install Little Free Library with diverse titles in communities that need them most.
The fourth is a recommended reading list that provides diverse book titles people can consult for ideas on what to read next.
Along with encouraging people to learn about diversity and other perspectives, the initiative aims to inspire children in minority communities and encourage them to read by providing them with books in which they can see characters who look like them.
“It’s a long term challenge but just to imagine that if even just one child somewhere will be impacted by this effort and feel more inspired to read and make changes in our society, then it is definitely worth it,” Metzger said.
There are currently more than 100,000 Little Free Library locations in 108 countries around the world.