Little Free Library Helps Reading Stay Fresh & Clean

Kapp Singer | February 26th, 2024

Little Free Library Helps Reading Stay Fresh & Clean

Books  |  New Haven Schools  |  Arts, Culture & Community  |  Possible Futures

IMG_4691Lauren Canalori's third grade class at L.W. Beecher with LaundroMax's Chris Walker. Photos Kapp Singer.

Third graders from L. W. Beecher Museum Magnet School of Arts and Sciences sat on the floor of LaundroMax, wondering what could be underneath the mysterious black cloth in front of them. There were already a few clues around: books on tables, books atop washing machines, books in laundry carts. 

Then, to a gasp of surprise and round of applause, Lauren Anderson and Anylah Whyte pulled back the cloth to reveal the “So Fresh and So Clean Little Free Library.” 

So went the Friday morning unveiling of the first of 10 little free libraries that the Edgewood Avenue bookstore Possible Futures is installing around the city between February and June. The project is funded by a grant from Read in Color, a program administered by the St. Paul, Minn.-based nonprofit Little Free Library, which aims to increase access to books by and about people of color.

IMG_4539Possible Futures founder Lauren and Anderson and junior staff member Anylah Whyte reveal the little free library.

“Even though New Haven is a city with one of the wealthiest institutions in the world right downtown, there are still lots of neighborhoods where young folks don’t have easy access to books,” said Anderson, the founder of Possible Futures. “And when I say young folks, I mean young folks of all ages—the learner in all of us.”

“The idea is to intervene in book deserts,” Anderson added.

For the project’s inaugural library, Anderson teamed up with LaundroMax General Manager Chris Walker. Walker opened the Whalley Avenue laundromat last month with the goal of creating a space for people to not only wash their clothes, but build community

“It was a miracle that she walked in,” Walker said. “I was trying to figure out how I was gonna do a magazine stand, or something like that in here—when she came with the idea about the books, I was like ‘that’s ten times better than any magazine stand.”

To celebrate the little free library, Anderson and Walker hosted a storytime event for Lauren Canalori’s third grade class. Anderson read aloud The Light She Feels Inside, a book by Connecticut native Gwendolyn Wallace and illustrated by Olivia Duchess in which a character named Maya finds joy in reading about influential Black historical figures. As the book introduced these figures—people like Martha B. Johnson, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, June Jordan, and Nina Simone—Anderson held up other texts she had brought along that detail their lives.

IMG_4586IMG_4649Top: Anderson reads to the students. Bottom: Teacher Lauren Canalori with Marley Arias (left) and Ivanna McClure.

“I liked the story because it’s showing you how a little girl can have big feelings,” Ivanna McClure said.

“It’s about how you try not to be so hard on yourself and start thinking of all those good memories you have,” Jayli Cambara said. “She was glowing with emotions.”

Following the read-aloud, students interviewed Walker for their class project about Black leaders in New Haven. They asked about his upbringing in the city, his favorite teachers, how he builds community, and—their most polarizing question—his favorite pizza .

IMG_4641Students interview Chris Walker.

Students each got to take home a free copy of The Light She Feels Inside, and before ending the day with a dance party to Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” they helped fill the little free library with books Anderson brought from Possible Futures.

“When I go to laundromats, I get bored,” said 10-year-old Anylah Whyte, a junior staff member at Possible Futures who helped run Friday’s launch event. “With books being here, when kids come it’s gonna be more amazing.”