By Kaitlin Johnstone

Our First Free Library with BLM Manasota

I haven’t watched a child read a book in person in 18 months aside from my daughter. A year and a half of no collective giggles during a read aloud. No gasps at the climax of one of our favorite picture books. No restless wiggle monsters unable to contain their excitement. No intriguing questions. All of it was missing. Being unable to attend our reading program in person on top of me taking a leave from the classroom this past year has been hard. Would I do it again in a second in order to do what is best for my family? Absolutely. However, did I feel as though a piece of me was missing at the same time? Also yes. These two feelings are not mutually exclusive, and I hope for the day we can do both again.

 In the meantime, we have started an INCREDIBLE partnership with Black Lives Matter Manasota Alliance to put BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) authors into the hands of kids throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties. BLM kick started their literacy initiative in December with a book drive that we purchased over 900 books for.

 Our latest project involved purchasing a free library that will stay inside the Oneco market in Bradenton. This past Saturday we had an unveiling with the community, and it was a huge success! To see the smiles on the kids faces made this past year and a half worth it. To hear them say how much they loved reading was music to my ears.


You have all helped us put books in the hands of kids for the past 4 years, but this felt different. Maybe it was being away from kids for 18 months, or the idea that we are giving books to children that are rich in representation; either way it felt more impactful. Living in a state that continues to quiet voices of truth, doesn’t protect others, and blatantly withholds the teaching of accurate history has been incredibly difficult. Seeing laws passed directly aimed at harming Black and brown bodies. Laws that dehumanize trans youth. Laws that ban the teaching of accurate history. None of which has been shocking, but all have been maddening. With all that being said, Saturday was a beautiful coming together of likeminded individuals who want to create change in education. Every child can go to our library as many times as they’d like and find books full of culture and representation. In a school system that many times fail (trust me I recognize there are many teachers out there doing the right thing, but sadly some are not, but that is an entire blog itself) to provide books that are mirrors for children, we are giving them this opportunity and we can’t begin to thank you all enough!

This is our first library, and we are hoping to have 9 up and running by this time next year and we could not do it without all of you!!! Every like, every share, every purchase helps children have access to books. Let us know what you think!


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