Getting children to the city parks on a lovely summer day is not a hard thing to do. Getting them to sit and listen to stories read by adults is something else. But the huge turnout for that very activity surprised and delighted everyone involved.
The Minneapolis Foundation, Minneapolis Parks Foundation, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Little Free Library, and Minnesota Public Radio got together to celebrate literacy and recognize Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th anniversary. Their “Book it to the Parks” event took place at 50 Minneapolis parks throughout the day on June 21st. Local authors, MPR radio personalities, sports figures, civic leaders and other volunteers were at the sites of newly-installed Little Free Libraries and read books to mostly younger listeners.
Little Free Libraries are the tiny houses on residential streets that foster a “take a book, leave a book” free exchange. The eight-year-old non-profit group worked with the Minneapolis Foundation on the project, and LFL’s founder Todd Bol attended some of the readings.
R.T. Rybak, President and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation said, “By providing listeners with high-quality news and entertainment for half a century, Minnesota Public Radio has strengthened our community enormously. That’s worth celebrating!” Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Jayne Miller added, “Having Little Free Libraries in our parks gives Minneapolis residents of all ages another great reason to come together and develop a lifelong love for reading.”
Sarah Lemagie, the Minneapolis Foundation’s Public Relations & Communications Officer said: “I can tell you that we’re thrilled with how the read-a-thon went. I went to several of the events yesterday and heard from lots of community members who either read at or attended story times, and they said that kids were really engaged with the story times and excited to check out the new Little Free Libraries.” Lemagie, who came up with the “Book it to the Parks” event title, said that the Minneapolis Public Library “seeded” the 50 Little Free Libraries with more than 4000 books, giving them a great start.
In Northeast, Logan, Bottineau, Waite, and Windom Parks and Jackson Square were included in the festivities. Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Liz Wielinski read “If I Ran the Circus” and a “Thomas the Tank Engine” story at Logan Park, along with Iris Altamirano, who read one of her books in Spanish. Free balloon animals and popcorn did nothing to drive away listeners.
Jo Theodosopoulos, a prospect research analyst at the Minneapolis Foundation, found time to read at Waite, Windom, and Bottineau parks. Her selection of Dr. Seuss books, including “Oh, the Places We’ll Go!” were well received by her youthful audience. The green grass and the gorgeous day perfectly fit the book’s closing lines: “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
Below: Jo Theodosopoulos of the Minneapolis Foundation reads to the kids at Waite Park in a whirlwind day that involved 50 such recreation centers in Minneapolis. The foundation, the parks, and Little Free Libraries got together June 21 to celebrate literacy and recognize Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th anniversary. Park Commissioner for Northeast, Liz Wielinski, posed with the kids at Logan Park, and Iris Altamirano took a turn reading, also at Logan Park, on June 21. (Photos by Mark Peterson)