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The Baxter County Early Literacy Project just opened a Little Free Library at the new Hickory Park playground to make a total of eight locations throughout Baxter County stocked with children’s books. Little Free Libraries are part of the Project’s mission to equip all Baxter County children with the early literacy skills they need to start Kindergarten. Getting books into their hands is the first step. The concept of the Little Free Libraries is to reach young children age 5 and under where they are, particularly at playgrounds, with books that their parents or caregivers can read to them. Children can take a book from the library or leave a book to share. Though the target age range is 5 and under, the libraries are stocked with books for children of all ages.
The Early Literacy Project was able to purchase, build, and stock the new Little Free Library thanks to generous grants and community collaboration. The Little Free Library was made possible with American Rescue Plan Act funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act Grants to States program and administered by the Arkansas State Library. A grant from the Twin Lakes Community Foundation and a matching grant from the Arkansas Community Foundation provided a total of $2,000 to stock the libraries with board books, which are durable books designed for small children. The Mountain Home Parks and Recreation Department installed the library.
The Little Libraries are easy to spot, they are bright yellow with the Early Literacy Project logo on them. Current Little Free Library locations include Cooper Park, Quail Run/Meadow Park Apartments, Mountain Home Kindergarten, Gassville City Park, Norfork Head Start, Big Spring Park in Cotter, and the newest location at Hickory Park in Mountain Home. Library volunteers and area school staff stock the libraries regularly.
Established in January 2018, the Baxter County Early Literacy Project is committed to getting books into children’s hands, promoting the importance of early literacy, instilling the practice of reading aloud in family culture, and increasing awareness of Arkansas Child Development and Early Learning Standards. The project is a collaboration between the Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, Cotter, and Norfork School Districts, ASUMH, the Schliemann Center for Women’s Health Education, and other early literacy advocates. To learn more about the Baxter County Early Literacy Project, visit the Baxter County Library website at baxlib.org/services/children-tweens/early-literacy-project.
Little Free Libraries are a global phenomenon, and the small book exchanges number 100,000 around the world. The Little Free Library nonprofit organization has been honored by the Library of Congress, the National Book Foundation, the American Library Association, and Reader’s Digest named them one of the “50 Surprising Things We Love about America.” Each year, nearly 10 million books are shared in Little Free Libraries. To learn more, please visit littlefreelibrary.org.