Each year, the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize awards five prizes of $2,500 each to individuals and institutions that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading. The National Book Foundation is proud to recognize Little Free Library as a winner of the 2013 Innovations in Reading Prize.
In 2010, when Todd Bol and Rick Brooks first shared ideas about what was to become the Little Free Library movement, the idea was simple—a box of books that looked like a one-room school house with a sign that said “Free Books.” Posted in his front yard by the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wisconsin, the first model was a memorial to Bol’s mother, a teacher who loved to read. But the curiosity and delight of neighbors suggested there was something more to it. The phrase “Take a Book, Return a Book” explained it pretty well, the name Little Free Library stuck, and the mission became clear—to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults, and libraries around the world. Sense of community trumped everything. Books became the currency of friendship, and constructing the free neighborhood book exchanges themselves emerged as a new American folk craft.
By late 2011, nearly 400 Little Free Libraries had been installed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and several other states. Within two more years, the total had swelled to between 6,000 and 8,000 in forty-two countries, from Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria to Japan, Australia, Brazil, and a dozen European nations. Millions of people have opened the doors of Little Free Libraries to find good books donated by their neighbors and contributed their favorites for others to read.