NAFC Brings Diversity To Treadwell Park With New Little Free Library
In an effort to bring books featuring racially diverse characters to local readers, Newtown Allies for Change (NAFC) teamed recently with Newtown Parks & Recreation Department and Newtown Rotary Club to install a Little Free Library at Treadwell Park.
Melissa Houston, NAFC’s Learning Subcommittee chair, led a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 16 when the new Little Free Library was officially open to the public. The library is located near the pool entrance and playground at the Philo Curtis Road park.
“It’s nice to have a project you’re proud of; I can’t wait to see it used,” said Houston.
The Little Free Library is a book exchange program with over 100,000 locations across the country. The newest installation will be part of the Read In Color program, which “is a new initiative bringing diverse books to Little Free Library book-sharing boxes around the world,” states littlefreelibrary.org.
“Read in Color distributes books that provide perspectives on racism and social justice; celebrate BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized voices; and incorporate experiences from all identities for all readers,” also according to the website.
“This will help challenge people to think of the world as a wider place than they normally would,” said Houston.
The site says less than 25 percent of children’s books depict non-white characters.
“This is a chance for black, indigenous, people of color to be able to see themselves in books,” said Michelle Lamb, a member of the NAFC Learning Subcommittee and a teacher at Fraser Woods Montessori School.
Nicole Maddox, a member of the NAFC Executive Board, said she was “really proud” of the work the Learning Subcommittee had accomplished.
“We are a grassroots, community organization that cares deeply about social justice and racial justice,” said Maddox, who added the group does not have funding but does receive the support and efforts of the community.
Alex Villamil, president of local Rotary Club chapter, said that Rotary as a group supports diversity and is “happy to support” the new Little Free Library.
“The Rotary as not only a local organization but a worldwide organization supports the promotion of different backgrounds and races,” said Villamil. “We believe that the Little [Free]Library will serve Treadwell Park patrons, families, as well as the community by providing them the gift of knowledge and wonder that books can bring.”
Focus On Inclusion
Michelle Embree Ku, who is ending her term as Board of Education chairman and beginning a new term on the Legislative Council beginning in December, said that it was “good to see the focus brought to the community.”
“It’s important to bring focus to equity and inclusion,” said Ku.
Houston noted that while the Little Free Library is currently set into just soil, pavers are being installed in that area, leading from a stretch of sidewalk to not only the library but a nearby bench as well. The pavers will mean the area can be more easily cleared of snow during the winter, so it can still be accessed.
Houston said that while NAFC will be placing books promoting diversity into the library as part of the Read In Color program, the Little Free Library is about free exchange of books, so those looking to donate do not need to limit themselves in the same way and can feel free to leave books they would like to share. The only books that will be curated and removed, she said, are those containing material that may be considered to be inappropriate for some readers.
While Houston says she has enough books to keep the library stocked for a few months, she said the initial plan will be to see how the public uses the Little Free Library; if it sees frequent donations or if some types of books, like those for younger readers, for instance, go faster than other types of books.
She also said that it would be best for different people or organizations to each take a month when they would monitor the library and keep it stocked to encourage community participation. NAFC is also looking at the possibility of bringing more Little Free Libraries under the Read In Color banner to Newtown, eyeing Newtown Community Center as a key location.
NAFC has been in conversations with C.H. Booth Library and Friends of the Library as well as the Newtown Rotary Club to create a well-supported community effort so that there is a steady supply of books for the Little Free Library.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said the group would have to approach the zoning board before a Little Free Library could be installed at the Community Center. The zoning for that area is less permissive to things like the Little Free Library than public parks are.
Rosenthal said it was “nice to see a collaboration between several of our community organizations.”
“It’s pretty exciting to have books that parents can read to children while they play,” said Rosenthal. “They go together nicely. I’m thankful for the hometown community effort.”
Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.