Little Free Libraries increase access to books for low-income kids

Children’s books that can benefit a child’s early learning are simply something many communities do not have. For children in low income neighborhoods, there is just one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. Compare that with 13 books per child in middle-income areas, there’s certainly inequity experienced early in a child’s life when it comes to being prepared to enter school.

“This is unimaginable to many whose children have dozens of picture books on the shelves of their room,” says Jake Adams, chief development officer at Southwest Human Development. “People in the community are stepping up to make sure more kids have access to books in Arizona.”

Southwest Human Development partnered with the national Little Free Library organization in an effort to change the outcomes that early literacy skills can bring to a child’s life. Little Free Libraries are decorative, often custom-made wooden boxes that are placed in neighborhoods where residents can access books—or, in this case, high-quality children’s books—on a “take one, leave one” honor system.

Last year, Zandra O’Keefe, managing director of CBIZ MHM, LLC and Southwest Human Development board member, led a group of businesswomen to assemble and decorate six Little Free Libraries. These libraries were then stocked with gently-used books donated by Fry’s Food Stores and later placed in a south Phoenix neighborhood by veterans who were volunteering with The Mission Continues thanks to the organization of Roosevelt School District Board Member Lawrence Robinson.

“Libraries purchased from Southwest Human Development make a great volunteer activity for a company or civic group like a Kiwanis Club or Rotarians. Organizations make a $500 donation and we provide them with the library kit and background on early literacy initiatives in our community. Once the library is completed, we put the library up in a neighborhood where kids don’t have access to books,” added Adams.”

Since Southwest Human Development launched its Little Free Libraries initiative, more than 60 libraries have been distributed throughout Maricopa County and one has even made its way up to the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona. Corporate partners who helped facilitate this effort include Shutterfly, McDonald’s, the Fiesta Bowl and others.

Learn more about Little Free Libraries or order your DIY kit today at