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Read All About It: Literacy Group Turns Old Newspaper Boxes Into Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries — boxes where anyone can take or leave books — have become a pop-up trend around the country.

And now there are three more of them in South Florida, courtesy of a collaborative project coordinated by the local chapter of Literacy Volunteers of America.

The group tutors adults with reading, especially those for whom English is a second language.

"I love the idea, because the more people that get out there and read the better it is for everybody," said Peary Fowler, a Monroe County judge who serves as president of the board of directors.

Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN
Stephanie Howe, a volunteer with the Literacy Volunteers chapter in Key West, checks out some of the group's new little free libraries with her dog, Lily.

The first Little Free Library the group bought was a kit, which Fowler said was "pretty expensive." But then the group connected with the Key West Citizen, the local newspaper, which donated some old newspaper boxes.

"They were pretty nasty, but one of our volunteers who takes care of the office volunteered to sand them down and prime them," Fowler said. The group also added peaked roofs on top of the boxes, so they would look like Conch houses from the island's historic district.

She then recruited local artist Rick Worth to help paint the boxes, added the roosters and lizards that are a common sight around the island.

"My idea was to have sort of a trademark look to these pop-up libraries," she said.

One of the boxes is set to stay at the Literacy Volunteers office in Key West, while the others will go to the county's administrative headquarters and the Wesley House day-care center.

Stephanie Howe, a volunteer with the literacy group, says she hopes the Conch house design will attract book readers.

"They're actually very cute," she said. "Plus, it's intriguing. Let's see now — how do I open this? How do I get a book out? Oh wait, I've gotten newspapers before — I think I know how to open that one."

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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