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  • Dionna Roberts

The Art of Planting Little Free Libraries


When I read Game Changer: Book Access for All Kids written by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp 2 years ago, it was a literal game-changer for me as an educator. My love and passion for literacy were ramped up exponentially and I was on a mission. The idea for building Little Free Libraries came from this book and the many keynote speakers at literacy conferences who spoke about ending book deserts in our communities. Initially, building Little Free Libraries was something I planned to do much later in my life. Maybe after retirement or "In Remembrance of Me". One of the most important things I’ve learned over the past 7 months has been that “NOW” is what we have and we have little to no control over “LATER”.


In July 2020, I launched a t-shirt fundraising campaign through the online site Teespring. I designed a t-shirt with the phrase "Literacy is My JAM" and shared it on all of my social media platforms. My initial goal was to purchase and plant one LFL along with new books from www.firstbook.org to fill it. Since then, all profits made from this design have helped to build not one, but TWO Little Free Libraries for the Eastside Neighborhood of Kalamazoo.




This initiative continues to grow and I am overwhelmed by the generosity of individuals who want to help get books to the kids/families who need them. This month, Kellen Deau, KRESA Education for Employment (EFE) Art & Design Career Skills Teacher, and I co-wrote and submitted a grant proposal to build TWENTY-THREE additional libraries throughout the Kalamazoo community. These LFLs will be built by a local carpenter and hand-painted by local artists. Each Little Free Library will house books written and illustrated by local authors and illustrators in addition to other current titles. It does my heart good to see teacher friends from around the state/country, school families, and friends posting pictures wearing their shirts in support of this effort.

I proudly proclaim that Literacy is my JAM (Job and Motivation) and I won’t ever stop learning, reading, writing, and sharing the love of literacy. I am not on this mission alone as it truly does “take a village” to make lasting change. Thank you all for helping “seed” this idea. I’m excited to see the harvest. During one of my 3 AM conversations with God, struggling to sleep during this pandemic, He gave me the idea for this shirt design. The design became a fundraiser. The fundraiser became a blessing. The blessing of book access for families in my community is a reality that continues to grow and spread its roots!


To support the building and maintenance of Little Free Libraries in my community you can order a "Literacy is My JAM" t-shirt or hoodie here. Adult and youth sizes are available. Donations can also be made to my PayPal account at dionicole15@gmail.com.

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