While playing their favorite game at a local park this summer, Minneapolis children will have the chance to pick out a book to read at one of the tiny free libraries that have popped up across the city.
Several local organizations, including the Minneapolis Foundation, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, have joined forces to open more than 50 new Little Free Libraries in parks or at recreation centers in celebration of Minnesota Public Radio's (MPR) 50th anniversary. The little wooden boxes, which look like small houses, were recently filled with more than 4,000 new and gently used children's books to promote reading and literacy.
R.T. Rybak, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation, said the additional libraries are part of an effort to encourage children to continue reading during the summer break without taking away from their vacation time.
"Learning loss over the summer is one of the biggest challenges we have in our schools," Rybak said. "We want our kids to enjoy the parks but not to forget to keep their brains as cross-trained as their bodies."
To kick off the project, organizers hosted a "Book it to the Parks" grand opening ribbon-cutting Wednesday morning for its Little Free Library at Nokomis Community Center. The daylong celebration also included book readings at other parks and rec centers in the city. The Minneapolis Foundation said books would also be read in Somali, Hmong and Spanish.
The Little Free Libraries project is simple — take a book, keep it if you like, bring it back or donate a book.
Assistant Park Superintendent of Recreation Tyrize Cox said the book exchange will bring communities together and create "an excellent opportunity for us to encourage and increase reading for pleasure among kids."
To keep the tiny libraries and their books from being stolen, the Park Board has opened some portable mini-libraries that can be stored inside rec centers overnight. All the books are stamped to prevent them, if stolen, from being sold at bookstores.
Ali Lozoff, director of MPR's 50th anniversary, said residents should become the "stewards" and driving force of the little libraries.
"It's a fantastic physical part of our anniversary, and we hope it just keeps inspiring curiosity and creating community," Lozoff said.