You know what we do at Little Book Locker, right? We put indoor kid-friendly little free library-type things in places where kids might not too much access to books. We donate books to places that have Reach Out and Read programs, or are already working with Raising a Reader. We focus on lower income areas, places where you might find a lot of single parents who don't have the time to take their kids to the library or don't have money to buy their kids books too often. Heather and I both loved having our own favorite books at home when we were little, and we passed the gift of books on to our kids when we grew up. So the idea that there might be kids out there who want books and don't have them--that made us start Little Book Locker.
I love to share what I'm doing with friends. This summer I was sitting chatting with an old friend, telling her what I'd been up to with Little Book Locker. Kristin is an old enough friend that I knew her before she was a family practice doctor running a clinic in rural Gardener, MA, so it hadn't occurred to me till that moment that she might host a LBL at work. She loved the idea, because a lot of families in the Gardener, MA are indeed lower income. Within a week she drove to my house to see my shelf of books. We got a bunch of boxes, and she filled them with books for the kids that come to her clinic. My favorite part was when she said, "I keep seeing books and thinking of specific kids who would like them."
The other part of this post is a little more awkward to discuss, but here I go: A lot of children's books that have been published until recently--and I mean the last year or two--have pictures of white kids in them. I mean a LOT. There might be one kid in the background that is not white, but all the main characters are white. Because largely, in publishing, all the writers and illustrators of kids' books have been white, as have the people who work in publishing. So I had all these "white kid books" as I so eloquently call them, but when I deliver books to Dorchester or Lawrence where the kids getting them are largely Black and LatinX, I don't want to give them those books. They won't see themselves in those books. The books from LBL are mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors, which we've written about on the About page on our website.
Most of the money I spend is to buy books with pictures of Black kids in them. Or LatinX kids. Or Muslim kids or Asain kids. Or bi-lingual books in Spanish and English. Because our gently-used donated books aren't in that category. This is why Shoshanna's donation was so helpful to us at LBL. Because like I said, publishers have finally figured this out. Finally, my shelves of "books by and about BIPOC people" (because I do organize the shelves like that) are filling up.
This is why the Gardener clinic is such a wonderful place for me to be able to donate books. Because most of the kids who will get the books there are white. And they will see themselves in the white kid books--which is wonderful too. I have plenty more books for rural health clinics, or youth centers, wherever kids might go. So if anyone knows a person who runs a potential LBL site--send them our way!
Here's my friend Kristin and her husband Frank who host this Little Book Locker at Chair City Family Medicine in Gardener, MA.
Thanks to Frank for putting the locker together! (He's not bad with tools.)