Little Free(dom) Library initiative extends through March celebrating Women’s History Month

The program aims to distribute 1,500 fiction and nonfiction books in the face of continued book bans across the country.

The Little Free Library in Franklin Square

The Free(dom) Library Initiative provided ''banned'' books by Black authors throughout February at 13 locations, including this one at Franklin Square, and will provide more works written by women throughout March. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

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After distributing 1,500 banned books by Black authors in February, Visit Philadelphia is working to include more works written by women to celebrate Women’s History Month.

The Little Free(dom) Library initiative, which started last month in conjunction with the Free Library of Philadelphia and Little Free Library, will now offer “Feminism Is for Everybody” by bell hooks and “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang, along with a dozen other books offered through the initiative.

All of the books offered have fallen under book bans within school districts throughout the country after being deemed inappropriate. According to PEN America, during the 2022-2023 school year, 30% of banned books were about race, racism or featured characters of color. Of the top 11 books, 10 are by female or non-binary authors or illustrators.

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Books can be found at multiple locations throughout Philadelphia, including the Museum of Art, Betsy Ross House and Franklin Square. Many were purchased from local Black-owned businesses, including Black and Nobel, Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop and Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books.

During an interview with WHYY News in February, Visit Philadelphia CEO Angela Val said she hopes people who borrow a book will either “see themselves in some of the stories” or see different perspectives.

“By telling stories, people reading about other people, their culture, their ethnicity, their experiences, that’s how we get to know one another,” she said. “That’s how we start to break down some of the barriers that divide us. That’s how we get to see each other as humans.”

The initiative comes amid continued book bans — mostly in school districts with conservative-leaning school boards. The Philadelphia area has seen its own instances of book bans, most notably in the suburban district of Central Bucks. Margret Aldrich, the communications director for Little Free Library, said the initiative will help ensure minority authors are heard.

“Book bans go against our core values, especially when the bans overwhelmingly target Black authors and others in the BIPOC or LGBTQ communities,” Aldrich said. “When a book is banned, it’s not only silencing that book…it’s telling people in that community that they should be silenced as well.”

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Titles offered include “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” by Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. WHYY’s Billy Penn compiled a complete list of the 12 books being distributed in the area. This initiative is part of Visit Philadelphia’s “In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union” series, celebrating the city’s various heritages as America approaches its 250th birthday.

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