Twenty-nine Little Free Libraries stewarded by the United Way of Greater Lorain County provide an engaging take-a-book-leave-a-book swap that puts reading material in the hands of children and their families. The national, free book exchange program provides kits to build libraries that look like little houses — much like a generous, decorated mailbox that’s painted and whimsical.

“It’s a great way to encourage reading, improve kindergarten readiness and middle school success,” says Colleen Walts, marketing and engagement director for the United Way of Greater Lorain County. “Books that are age appropriate can be costly, so being mindful about having those books available for families is so important.” 

Academically, children who grow up in homes without books are three years behind those who have access to lots of books. And 61% of families who are low-to-moderate income do not have any age-appropriate books at home for their kids, according to an International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) Literacy Study.

“Reading prepares children for kindergarten and to be light years ahead,” Walts explains. “And it’s a great way for families to get involved with reading to their kids.”

Kindergarten readiness and school success are important initiatives for the United Way. “We are always encouraging parents to read to their kids — it doesn’t matter if it’s a book, cereal boxes, signs — it helps get children on the right track,” Walts says.

The United Way partnered with employees from Avient Corporation in September to grow the Little Library system throughout Lorain County by 15 more “book stops,” which doubled the number of libraries the organization stewards to its current count. They are mostly stationed at parks, childcare centers, social services agencies and churches. But anyone can have a Little Free Library.

The Little Free Libraries increase access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. You’ll find them stocked with board books, textbooks, chapter books, adult fiction and nonfiction.

“This ties into our Collect. Sort. Deliver. initiative for high-need items, including school supplies, books and feminine products,” Walts adds, noting that by collecting books on site at United Way of Greater Lorain County, the organization can be sure the Little Free Libraries are well stocked. 

The Little Free Libraries effort is in partnership with The Stocker Foundation. 

The Lorain County Little Free Library (LCLFL) project launched in 2013 with a $30,000 startup grant from The Stocker Foundation with Lorain County Educational Service Center serving as the fiscal agent. LCLFL is part of a worldwide network of more than 80,000 registered libraries — a model created by Todd H. Bol, who was a frequent visitor to Northeast Ohio, making sure the program was implemented with love. The project circulates thousands of books in the community.

Walts says social media efforts show the project is spreading lots of good words throughout Lorain County. “It’s so cool to see the community of folks who are participating and sharing what they are reading to their families.”

Early Childhood Reads

Scholastic suggests these popular books to prepare children for kindergarten and beyond.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
by Mo Willems

The Kissing Hand
by Audrey Penn

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

Kindergarten, Here I Come!
by D.J. Steinberg

Shades of People
by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly