Skip to main content

Independent Voice

New Little Free Bilingual Library Opens

Aug 28, 2020 12:00AM ● By By Debra Dingman

R.K. Van Every helps to open a bilingual Little Free Library by using a Dixon's Independent Voice Newspaper receptacle restored by District 4 Councilman Devon Minnema, a Kiwanis member. Photo by Debra Dingman

DIXON, CA (MPG) - Dixon is getting its first bilingual Little Free Library thanks to the Dixon Kiwanis Club and a gracious couple who reside on A Street. Descansar y Leer Pequeña Biblioteca Gratis at 680 West A Street will open this week.

"There is a huge need in the community for this," said R.K. Van Every who with husband Greig, and Dixon Kiwanis, established the first official Little Free Library a few years ago.

Little Free Libraries started in 2009 by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, as a tribute to his mother, a teacher who loved to read. LFL is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

The LFLs are tiny libraries, each characterized by its uniquely decorated book receptacle belonging to the entire community and the readers maintain it by bringing a book when they take one.

These two receptacles were both donated by Dixon's Independent Voice Newspaper and restored by District 4 Councilman Devon Minnema, also a Kiwanis member.

"I think [being bilingual] is the future for all of us," R.K. said. "I think we should do whatever we can to improve literacy in this community." The Van Everys believe everyone should speak their native language and one other but in the Dixon community, that should be English and Spanish.

"For this modern world we have to be able to communicate," she said. "When we did the original one, we had so many people coming by to use it. It is refreshing to see the different generations out there. You will see the parent and the child but you'll also see a 10-year-old on a bike or a senior citizen. They all seem to really enjoy it and they bring books to trade." They see people of all ages and from all walks of life including a homeless man who gets a book almost every week.

"People can use any LFL anywhere. The motto is 'Take a book, leave a book.' No library card needed," she said. You don’t even have to return any books. If you want to keep a book, that is fine; it is merely asked that you bring a book to replace each book you take.

That helped keep up the supply when the pandemic hit and the Dixon Public Library closed. They saw an uptick in people dropping by to exchange books. But, even when the public library is open, it requires a proof of address and photo identification in order to check out books which can be difficult for migrants or homeless.

Little Free Libraries mushroomed across the nation in the past decade. Now, there are more than 70,000 LFLs in 70 countries. Dixon even added another one, the Regency Little Free Library at 395 Fitzpatrick Court.

While there may be some bilingual books in the local LFL's inventory, this new one will be exclusively bilingual--books that will have writing in Spanish and English.

"In visiting with some of the families who come by, often we find that the parent will be learning English," said R.K. "We want books that enable them both to be reading English and Spanish; the parent and the child will both be learning." With Dixon's Hispanic/Latino population at more than 40 percent according to the City of Dixon demographics, and with Dixon being home of the Migrant Camp, this is important to improve community literacy.

"When people come here from Mexico, especially if they have children in school, they learn very quickly to speak English but they can't read or write it," said R.K.

Academically, children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, according to the nonprofit's website. One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home. But, two out of three children living in poverty have no books to call their own. 

The Van Everys are starting the inventory with donated books from the Dixon Kiwanis, their personal purchases, and donated books from Kim Schroeder-Evans, a local Spanish professor.

It was R.K.'s conversations with some of the Hispanic visitors that peeked her desire to speak Spanish and take Schroeder-Evans classes.

"I definitely think it is a very good thing for our community," said Schroeder-Evans. Now, R.K. is taking three online college courses and is nearly giddy at the prospect of having conversations with Spanish-speaking visitors.

"It's an opportunity to converse with them and practice my own Spanish," she said. The Spanish version also has its own 'Rest and Read' bench just like the other one next to it. The restored receptacle was done in complimentary colors to the original one.

To donate bilingual books, one can order from Amazon and have them delivered directly to Little Free Library at the Dixon address, but the books do not have to be new; they just have to be in good shape. If you can help, contact Dixon Kiwanis for free pick up at (707) 301-0795.