Little Free Library Unbound is a digital event series hosting various authors, LFL stewards, and book publishing industry professionals. The first episode hosted Dionne Sims, owner of Black Garnet Books in Minneapolis, and Tameka Fryer Brown, author of Brown Baby Lullaby. The next installment will air on February 18 at 4 p.m. CST, with bestselling children’s author Kate DiCamillo. You can register for the next episode and watch the first episode at Little Free Library. Sign-up for the LFL newsletter to stay up-to-date on future events.
The first episode of Little Free Library Unbound focuses on the Read in Color initiative, promoting BIPOC authors. Little Free Library stewards are taking steps to spread under-represented voices by stocking their neighborhood book exchanges with books from the Read in Color reading list. Some of the titles by Black authors include:
I am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes (Children’s)
Targeted toward children ages 3–7, this book is narrated by someone proud to be who he is and ready to take on the world no matter the obstacles.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (YA)
Once, Zeli lived in a magical world. Fire, water, and reaper magic hummed in the soil of Orisha. Then magic disappeared, and the crown prince will do anything to eradicate it forever. Zeli discovers one chance to revive magic, but she’ll need the help of the rogue princess to outwit the prince.
New Kid by Jerry Craft (Middle Grade)
Jordon Banks is in 7th grade and wants to attend art school. But his parents have other ideas and enroll him in a prestigious private school where he is one of the only kids of color. Can he adapt to this new environment while staying true to himself?
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (YA)
High Schooler Jade wants to escape her poor neighborhood and make something of herself. That’s why she takes the bus to a private school every day, but there she finds another set of challenges: the other students. Renee Watson reveals the mind of a young creative who seeks to force others to see what they are willfully blind to in her ground-breaking YA novel about finding your own voice.
Read in Color also includes reading lists by writers of Latinx, Native American, and Pacific Islander books. Little Free Library stewards are eligible for a 10% discount at Half Price Books in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
LFL book exchange stewards who stock Read in Color books see more community members using their libraries. Monique Hernandez, an employee at CAPI USA, spoke on the subject in the first episode of Little Free Library Unbound. “I’m especially excited about Read in Color because it gets diverse perspectives and voices out into the community.”
Dionne Sims, the owner of Black Garnet Books in Minneapolis, discussed the responsibility booksellers have to promote BIPOC books. Black Garnet Books is the only Black-owned bookstore in Minneapolis and only stocks books by BIPOC authors. As Sims says in a segment of the episode, “It’s important to have Black booksellers and booksellers of color because that’s how you get people to recommend books…we need that diversity of thought and diversity of experience.”
Tameka Fryer Brown, the author of Brown Baby Lullaby, spoke on the book publishing industry’s progress in recent years. Not only are they publishing more Black authors, but they also have more employees who identify as BIPOC. When asked about what she sees in the industry, she said, “There is a shift that is beginning. Something that feels like it’s more permanent. We are seeing the publishing industry are hiring more BIPOC people. All of that is important. We are having a public discussion about equity. I give so much credit to the advocates…”
When discussing her new book and writing process, Fryer Brown noted that too many Black voices in literature are written by white authors. “There is an issue particularly with titles…books about Black characters…less than fifty percent of them are written by Black authors.” The problem with white authors writing Black characters is that “Black people aren’t controlling the narrative.”
Do You Want to Get Involved with LFL in Your Community?
Little Free Library is a growing nonprofit with book exchanges in seven continents. Setting up a little free library in your community is a fun way to encourage kids to read during the pandemic. You can get started by buying an official Little Free Library or building one your own! Once you’ve set it up, learn how to create a sign that will attract your friends and neighbors.