One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home, so it is encouraging to see more and more Little Free Libraries appearing throughout Northeast Mississippi.

Small community libraries like these have been growing in popularity over the last few years, due in large part to the efforts of national nonprofit Little Free Library. Founded in 2009, Little Free Library has registered more than 90,000 book-sharing boxes in 91 countries worldwide.

Little Free Libraries provide 24/7 access to books, increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds and encouraging a love of reading. The Little Free Library organization’s map shows these important libraries in Alcorn, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties (visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/ for specific locations.

Most recently, the Lee County Library and the Tupelo Parks and Recreation Department in partnership with the Friends of the Lee County Library opened Little Free Libraries located at two city parks, Gumtree Park and Robins Field.

“Our Parks and Recreation Department … keep us all engaged, provide opportunities for us to learn new things, and improve our quality of life. We are all on the same mission – to make Tupelo and Lee County the best place to live. I think these Little Free Libraries will help Park & Rec and the Library to impact people’s lives for the better,” said Lee County Library Director Jeff Tomlinson during the dedication ceremony for the little libraries.

Last year, as part of a project through the Itawamba County Development Council’s ongoing Junior Leadership Program, five Itawamba Agricultural High School students designed nine small libraries and placed them in high-traffic areas throughout the county to encourage literacy for children. The group collected more than 500 books, mostly aimed at elementary-aged readers, to fill their small libraries.

Research has shown that children growing up in homes without books are on average academically three years behind children in homes with lots of books. For various reasons, some families do not have books at home or easy access to finding reading material for their children.

Little Free Libraries belong to everybody and provide a chance for readers to share their passion for books with others in their communities. It’s basically a “pay it forward” program – Take a book, share a book, give books.

Reading can give incomparable pleasure and you can’t put a price tag on its value. These projects promote literacy and build community. And in the end, hopefully spark a lifelong love of reading.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

- Charles William Eliot

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