Featured activity: Make the Most of Little Free Libraries

Published on October 29, 2021 - Updated on November 03, 2021

Without question, children’s books are essential to keeping our household running smoothly.

You know those mornings when the kids are melting down, your toddler is crying because his graham cracker broke in half and you just reheated your coffee for the seventh time? That’s when I know we need to pile everyone on the couch with a big stack of books and spend the next 20 minutes (or however long they will pay attention) reading kid’s books.

So yes, I think it’s fair to say “Little Blue Truck” and “Go, Dog, Go!” have saved my sanity on numerous occasions.

We love our local public library branch and use it frequently, but we’ve also started intentionally seeking out little libraries in our community. Those free neighborhood book exchanges have become a big hit with my kids.


You might be familiar with these little libraries; they often look like oversized, colorful birdhouses or mailboxes standing near curbs, in parking lots, or outside businesses or schools. There’s one at our neighborhood middle school dedicated to a technology teacher who died of cancer and another nearby that promotes English and Spanish books to serve the area’s Hispanic community.

The idea of curbside libraries became a worldwide movement with the help of Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization Little Free Library, which launched in 2009 with the goal of expanding book access and inspiring readers. Today, the group has more than 100,000 little libraries in its network.

My family has started to make an activity out of visiting little libraries. First, make a list of where you have them in your community or check out the Little Free Library’s online map (FYI — this only displays locations that are officially registered with the organization, and many little libraries aren’t registered). Then, gather a few books the children are willing to donate to the little library. Once there, swap for new books to read. As an added bonus, often the libraries are located in parks or on trails we can explore.

I’ve made it a goal this year to actually start our own little library in our front yard. We’re avid readers in my family and I would love to share our love of books with our neighbors.


If you’re interested, you can buy a plain wooden library kit directly from Little Free Library (rather than a DIY situation). It comes with an official charter sign and a spot on the Little Free Library world map. Other tips for starting a curbside library? Little Free Library says to identify a caretaker to maintain the library, build or purchase your library, register it on their website and spread the word to your community. Learn more here.

Here are some of my kid’s (4 and 21 months) favorite reads right now:

  • "Otis the Tractor" series by Loren Long
  • "Tap the Magic Tree" by Christie Matheson
  • "Busy, Busy Town" by Richard Scarry
  • "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go" by Richard Scarry
  • "The Rabbit Listened" by Cori Doerrfeld

Tag your family's favorite Little Free Library on Instagram @gethappyly! We love to hear from you! 

For more inspiration, check out another recently featured activity, Camping With Kids, make time for Family Bike Rides  or Find a State Park near you! For a fun activity at home, check out our list of Chalk Games.

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Thoughtfully captured by:
Lizzy Alfs
Lizzy is a Michigan transplant living in the always bustling Nashville, Tenn. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she spent a decade working as a business journalist in Ann Arbor, Mich. and then Music City. She recently transitioned her journalism career to freelance writing so she could stay home with her two little boys, Milo and Jude. Lizzy grew up in the summers on a lake in beautiful Northern Michigan and she spent the winters making the most of the state's endless snow and slush. She lives by the motto "There's no such thing as bad weather" and you'll find her outside rain or shine. These days, Lizzy and the boys like to adventure around Nashville, looking for toddler-friendly hikes, parks and swimming holes.
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