Literacy is fundamental to learning, it creates the foundation for developing goals and supports in achieving those goals each step of the way. Reading and writing is an extremely important skill for people of all ages, whether they are just learning to read or already consuming “a book a day.”

Having access to reading material can be a barrier for some, and for others reading may not be “exciting” enough. However, in this post we will discuss the benefits of book exchanges and how they help in promoting literacy.

A book exchange is usually a free exchange of reading materials between two or more parties. Without a doubt, the best source for free reading material is the library. The space, resources, services, friendly staff and knowledgeable librarians make it one of the best places to source reading material and advocate for literacy. However, in this post let us shine a light on alternative options outside of the library, with a particular focus on different types of book exchanges and the benefits that come along with them.

Local Book exchange

The local neighbourhood book exchange is a popular movement. A great example would be Little Free Library. As stated on their website, “Little Free Library is a non-profit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community and sparks creativity by fostering neighbourhood book exchanges around the world”. Little free Libraries are currently located in 91 countries worldwide.

Anyone can arrange for a Free Little library to be set up in their yard. Not only does this allow local individuals and families to exchange books, but also ensures easy access to reading materials, while promoting a fun and interactive way to learn.

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Growing the community, reading and learning

Book exchanges can also help bring communities together. Building stronger community ties, through sharing, creates more trust and openness. This will only support the goal to promote literacy, while also continuously encourage a healthy selection of easily accessible literature.

In an article from shareable, the creator of Little Free Library Todd Bol stated “It makes us feel closer and more connected to each other” as he described the book exchange. The article also stated, “Beyond promoting literacy, Little Free Library branches have been sites of community gatherings, meetings, celebrations, storytimes, arts and craft events, potlucks, and more.”

Nowadays, it seems many children would prefer an electronic device over a book. Their ability to focus on the words diminishes as they turn away from the page in favour of a screen. Having an initiative such as free book exchanges bringing people, families and communities together while advocating for literacy is a great and positive cause.

What child could resist the offer of an “adventure” and the chance to find gold right under their nose? A walk to a neighbour’s house to explore what treasures might be found in the form of a book.

This very interaction of “discovering” a book that a stranger has left to borrow is what makes it exciting but also demonstrating selfless actions that may be replicated by the community as a whole. It is a great combination of building togetherness and literacy.

Online book exchanges

There are also some very fascinating book exchanges online. One noteworthy platform, bookcrossing, which allows members to release books “into the wild” or a “controlled release” which enables them to track the book and see where in ends up in the world. The journey is enriched with ability to follow journal entries other readers have written. On their website they proclaim their community of over 1.9 million passionate book lovers are changing world and touching lives, one traveling book at a time. To check out other online book exchanges, have a look as some of the ones listed in this article by Lifewire.

Helping each other

Book exchanges will never replace libraries and should be viewed as a complimentary resource helping to create a foundation of literacy while also encouraging the enjoyment of books and reading. In theory, this should also bring children, and other users of the book exchange, into their local library, as a graduated next step.

With the love of books and reading as the foundation these different types of book exchanges can spark an interest that can lead to an appreciation and love of libraries. Libraries house diverse collections, resources and a larger, richer community base that they serve and where people are able to draw ideas and inspiration from.

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So, check in your neighbourhood to see what book exchanges may already be there, and don’t forget to leave a book.

We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!

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