Little Free Libraries share joy of reading

Little Free Libraries share joy of reading with students, community
Posted on 10/16/2019
Outside of Edna Karr High School sits an unassuming white box that somewhat resembles a large birdhouse with purple trim on top a yellow post. Two Alice Harte elementary students gently open the door and peer inside.

What they are looking at, however, isn’t birds, but books.

This is one of six Little Free Libraries (LFL) that InspireNOLA’s Jessica L. Kostelak has established in hopes of creating a literacy movement across the city. Kostelak, Karr’s librarian, has set up these unique mini libraries at bus stops at Karr and McMain, as well as the Lower Ninth Ward, Algiers Point, Bywater, and New Orleans East.

 “Our bus stop libraries started because students wanted to stop in the library to get a book to read on the way home, but they didn’t have enough time, because they had to catch a bus,” said Kostelak. “I thought if we could set up a library at a bus stop, they could grab or swap a book for their daily commutes.”

The idea behind InspireNOLA’s Little Free Libraries, which are actually part of the world’s largest book-sharing movement (littlefreelibraries.org), is to provide not just InspireNOLA scholars, but other children and community members access to appropriate reading material.

algiers point little free library“The goal is to try to get kids off their phones by getting books into their hands,” Kostelak said.

Anyone is free to take a book, read it, and return it. They can also swap books or simply leave a book for others to read. In essence, it’s a way for the entire community to embrace literacy.

“One of the other main reasons that I really wanted to start this project is because our students are reading books that they don’t see themselves in,” she said. “I want to fill our bus stop libraries with books featuring characters that they can relate to or see themselves as. We’re promoting books that haven’t been readily available to all our students.”

These books include those featuring African American characters and/or those written by black authors, as well as books printed in Spanish and featuring Hispanic characters or authors.

Book donations for the libraries come from a variety of sources, including community members, Friends of the New Orleans Public Library, and donorschose.org.

bywater little free public library“We’ve had a lot of success with people all over the world wanting to help our students by donating books. Friends of New Orleans Public Library has started putting aside books by African-American and Latino authors specifically for our bus stop libraries and other local schools,” Kostelak said. “We are always looking for elementary school books and graphic novels, as well as appropriate adult material that students and neighbors might want to read.”

Kostelak, as well as fellow LFL stewards, routinely check up on the libraries to make sure they are filled with content-appropriate books and that the library itself is in good condition.

Jaqulin Joseph, the parent liaison at Edna Karr High School, takes care of the Little Free Library in Algiers Point.

“I have loved and lost a child,” Joseph shared. “This little library stands in honor of my son, Joshua.”

Joseph maintains the library by restocking it, checking the contents, decorating bookmarkers to include, sharing community flyers and info, and much more.

“My personal goal and mission is to reach every child I can with a little love, and here is evidence of that love. It’s an honor to pay it forward,” she said. “I love these little libraries. They encourage people young and old to read.”

If you would like to donate books to InspireNOLA’s Little Free Libraries, they can be dropped off in care of at Edna Karr High School, 3332 Huntlee Drive, New Orleans, LA 70131 or you can access Karr's Bus Stop Libraries' Wish List here: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/FS3SQIL2UXUM?ref_=wl_share
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