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The Mother-Son Duo Giving Literacy a Boost

Rachel Koppa and her son are on a mission to diversify all registered Little Free Libraries throughout Dallas, Texas.

Rachel and her son adding books to a little free library; Photo credit: Rachel Koppa
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When Rachel Koppa and her eight-year-old son, Elliott, explored the web earlier this year for ideas to decorate their new Little Free Library, they weren’t expecting to take on an entirely different mission: diversifying all registered Little Free Libraries in Dallas.

The mother and son duo were inspired by reading about Sarah Kamya, the East Coast woman who began the Little Free Diverse Library movement in her Massachusetts community, as a way to amplify diverse voices through books. The Little Free Library movement was started almost a decade ago and has since become a global nonprofit with over 100,000 registered libraries across the world.

“We should do that too,” Elliott said. Koppa agreed. She sorted the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), books from their own shelves to begin diversifying their local book-sharing sites. Then she followed Kamya’s lead of reaching out to friends and creating social media pages that outlined their goal: adding 10 racially and culturally diverse books for all ages to each Little Free Library in their hometown, which is close to 100 in total.

Koppa researched and read reviews to create her wish-list of just under 200 titles, asking for award-winning titles like Other Words for Home, Kamik’s First Sled and Hair Love—her son’s personal favorite. Donated books quickly arrived, from friends and strangers alike, and the Koppas got to work.

Before they hit the road, the mother and son duo stamp each book with the Little Free Library logo, attach a sticker with their mission statement to the bindings and sort the books. “We try to add four children’s books, three young adult books and three adult books to each library,” Rachel said. They then thoroughly clean each Little Free Library before adding a bottle of hand sanitizer—safety first!—and their ten new books. They arrange them so the covers face out, hoping to catch the eye of any passersby.

“Kids riding their bikes will stop for a look, and elderly women with walking sticks stop in the morning to peruse. It’s for all ages, and it’s wonderful for the community,” said Koppa.

The Koppas have diversified 100 of the Little Free Libraries in Dallas. Once they’ve finished in the city, they hope to continue into the suburbs. “As long as the books come, we’ll keep at it,” she said.

The response has been overwhelming and encouraging, with presses like Brave Rhino Books now donating titles. Koppa, who is always thrilled to read comments from those who notice the new books in their neighborhood’s Little Free Library, wants to inspire others to start diversifying the little libraries in their own communities and continue the mission Kamya started. 

“We need to see all kinds of different races, and cultures, and religions, and ethnicities so that it broadens our horizons and helps us be more open and understanding to the world that we live in,” Koppa said. “The reality is that everyone can make a difference somewhere. You just have to pay attention.”

Koppa documents their progress on their Facebook and Instagram pages, Little Free Diverse Library Dallas. To find Little Free Libraries near you or learn more about starting your own, visit littlefreelibrary.org.

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