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New Jersey Couple Spreads Love Of Reading With ‘Little Free Library’

Little Free Library

Bob and Jean Manfredi of Tinton Falls, N.J., have mounted this “little free library” on their lawn. (Credit: CBS 2)

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TINTON FALLS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey couple has decided to spread their love of reading through what is known as a “Little Free Library” in their very own front yard.

As CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported, Bob and Jean Manfredi have joined what has become a worldwide movement of promoting literacy.

The Manfredis said they came across the idea when they were on vacation this past summer. At the time, they thought it was just a cute notion.

“We were boating in the St. Lawrence Seaway, and one of the islands had a library on their dock,” Jean Manfredi said.

The library was made out of a wood box resembling a bird house, and the Manfredis liked it so much that they built their own.

“The concept is ‘take a book, leave a book,’” Jean Manfredi said. “It doesn’t have to be done at the same time.”

Through research, the duo learned that the first “Little Free Library” was built in 2009 by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wis., a St. Croix River town about 30 miles east of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“[Bol’s] mom was a school teacher and she passed away. He wanted kids to continue to read because she was a huge advocate of child literacy,” Bob Manfredi said.

In a time when there has been less spending on learning and literacy programs, a Little Free Library can make a big difference – not just locally, but globally.

“Some are in areas like Africa, where there’s no access to libraries at all,” Jean Manfredi said.

So far, their venture has been well-received.

“It’s a library that you don’t need a library card for, and it doesn’t have a due date in the book,” said Morgan Davies, an elementary school student who lives next door.

The Little Free Library is also open 24 hours a day, and patrons don’t have to worry about a librarian telling them to hush.

“There can be biographies, there can be comedies, there can be fantasies — it gets their brain working and they can get smarter in school,” said fourth grader Katie Trumble.

The Manfredis didn’t just stop at one. They built a second Little Free Library, which has been set up on Jean Manfredi’s parents’ lawn a town over in Red Bank.

And the young patrons are quite pleased.

“I really enjoy reading,” said seventh grader Eamonn Kernahan.

Such a sentiment is exactly what the Manfredis love to hear.

As of 2012, there were more than 3,000 Little Free Libraries registered across the country.