By Ariana Pedraza
A year ago, on July 3, 2020, Bloomingdale resident Melanie Martin started a Little Free Library in her front yard after seeing them in other areas and realizing her community did not have one. Run by Martin, her husband and her four boys, the library features many kinds of books, including ones by local authors and illustrators. Many of the featured authors were found through word of mouth or social media, and books are often given happily in exchange for the exposure.
“When everything shut down last year,” Martin explained, “a lot of people were walking past our home, so I thought it would be a cool thing to have in our neighborhood.”
The Little Free Library has spread beyond just a place to exchange books. Throughout the year, Martin has found many ways to become more involved in the community and encourage kids to read. During the holiday season, the family set a box out by the library where kids could mail their letters to Santa. Parents would leave a return address and stamp, and Martin and her husband would write back personalized letters back to each child.
Through her project, Martin has also found ways to encourage reading this summer. The Little Free Library’s Summer Reading Program turns reading into a game through bingo cards where kids can keep track of how and where they read for a treat at the end. The prize for participation is a water balloon party at the book box as well as a bag of goodies.
The book box does not stop there. Martin’s sons came up with the idea of ‘book buddies’ as well. During the holiday break, about 50 stuffed animals were set up by the library with a tag explaining that their book buddies were there to listen to them read.
The library offers events for adults too. It has done book giveaways for adults, using community donations and adding homemade bookmarks.
“It’s the community’s box,” she explained, “I don’t feel like it’s really mine—it belongs to the community. Their donations have kept it alive, and I am grateful, all I do is promote it. My goal with it is to promote local and get the community involved.”
To find more information, follow @LFLBloomingdale on Facebook and Instagram. For more on Little Free Libraries, visit littlefreelibrary.org.