After retiring as presiding judge of the Juvenile Court of Cobb County, Jim Morris served as a senior judge. Then he folded his robe, put it away and volunteered at the day care center at the Elizabeth Porter Recreational Center in Marietta.
“For two years, I was a homework helper and reader of children’s stories,” he recalls. “I loved knowing the children were excited about someone reading to them, so I gathered books for a library at the center.”
“When I stumbled across the Little Free Libraries web site on the Internet, (littlefreelibrary.org), which included the history of neighborhood self-serve “book houses,” how to build them and be stewards of taking a book and leaving a book, I knew I wanted children to get off the school bus and see a Little Free Library at the bus stop or near the carpool line.”
Jim Morris started building the Freyer Drive Little Free Library on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. “It was a way to honor his belief in education as the best path toward solving economic and social problems,” he remembers.
He took his Little Free Library house to the Freyer Drive Book Club and the members agreed to sponsor it. Jim Morris signed on as the steward of the free-standing library, checking once a week to see if children’s and adult’s books fill the shelves, replenishing cards with words of recommendation from readers.
“Often, a young child’s love of reading diminishes during his school years,” Jim Morris observes. “Maybe it’s peer pressure or technology, but the Little Free Library choices give kids an opportunity to choose a book and donate one in its’ place. Children are good stewards. Respectful. We have never had a case of vandalism.”
The Little Free Library housing books on Pine Street behind Allgood School attracts a different group of readers than the one at the corner of Freyer Drive and Chicasaw. Jim Morris built the Pine Street Little Free Library and set it in place near a community garden where neighbors share space to tend shoulder-high stalks of corn, saucer-sized tomatoes, okra and autumn crops of broccoli and carrots. Volunteers share their crop-to-table gardening experiences with school children.
The Little Free Libraries are actually new kids on the block, the first one built only six years ago in Wisconsin as a tribute to a mother and former teacher who loved reading. Today, there are more than 15,000 Little Free Libraries in countries around the world.
The original goal to mimic philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie’s, gift of more than 2,000 brick and mortar libraries to towns around the country, given as a new century began, was met by Little Free Libraries popping up from sea to shining sea in less than two years.
Earlier in the month, the MDJ Features Editor Sally Litchfield wrote about a Little Free Library in east Cobb in the Somerset subdivision.
This is chapter two with directions to drive north from the Square on Cherokee Street, then a couple of blocks down Freyer Drive to see the wood-shingled roof, hand-crafted Little Free Library stocked with books for reading.
A block or two away, a second Little Free Library stands at attention behind Allgood School.
We could fill a page of newsprint with memories of summer reading, shared by the children of yesterday, those who sat in porch rocking chairs or found a hammock, hiding from the heat of the day, lost in stories of boys, riding in covered wagons or girls, solving mysteries.
Reading took us away from the familiar, introducing us to slayers of dragons, to boys, rafting down a river and a saint, a woman, who led an army.
Now, in lucky neighborhoods, there are books only a block away. Take one. Leave one. Share the gift of reading.
Judy Elliott is a longtime resident of Marietta.