Little libraries promote citywide literacy

By Keisha Howerth

The Little Free Library program hopes to bring Latino families together through books.

The program is part of a worldwide movement to promotes literacy through free book exchanges. In DeKalb, two Daily Chronicle vending machines have been converted into Little Free Libraries. The Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic opened two Little Free Libraries on Friday, with one located outside Flamingo Restaurant and Ice Cream, 1029 Pleasant St., and the other outside AB Supermarket, 1612 Sycamore Road.

Evan King, outreach coordinator for the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic, said some of the books provided in the weather-resistant boxes will be bilingual for Latino families.

“A majority of Latino children aren’t literate in Spanish, while their parents aren’t literate in English,” King said. “With bilingual books, both the children and parents can completely understand the story they’re reading together.”

Through the program, anyone from the community can borrow a book for free and take it for as long as they’d like, and then return it to the box in exchange for another book.

“The idea was to get books out to the community,” King said.

Other books will also be available in the Little Free Libraries, and the target age groups will range from children to adult.

“We’re going to continue stocking books,” King said. “And anyone can donate books.”

King collaborated with Vanguardia Afirmativa de Latinos Unidos, an after-school program for Latino students from DeKalb High School, for the project. Artwork from students in the program can be found on the boxes holding the books.

According to the group’s coordinator, Adam Lopez, participants were excited to contribute their art to the community through Little Free Libraries.

“VALU has extremely talented artists and this just worked on so many levels,” Lopez said.

Ideas found within the artwork are rooted in Latino history.

“We have all the Latin American flags because it’s important to realize that just because we are a Latino group doesn’t mean we’re all Mexican,” said group mentor Lizy Garcia. “That’s something that a lot of people think and we really want to change that because we want to be more diverse within our own culture.”

Other illustrations on the boxes include Latino struggles in the fields, the border to symbolize immigration, and symbols for NIU student organizations DREAM Action and MEChA.

King hopes the program reaches its target audience and they take advantage of it. He also hopes more Latino families will be encouraged to get a library card from the DeKalb Public Library after using the Little Free Libraries.

“They actually have a great Latino collection,” King said.