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Artists competition at Michigan State Fair to put Little Free Libraries in Detroit urban gardens


You’ll love the Ferris wheel, the fried everythings, the non-stop entertainment, the butter cow and the animal competitions at the Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair. While you’re taking all this in at the Suburban Collection Showplace, there’s another other competition you shouldn’t miss.

Check out Detroit Little Libraries’ Little Free Libraries Prize Competition. It’s well worth the stop.

Twenty-five little libraries have been painted and decorated by local artists. You’ll get to vote on your favorite. The top five artists’ libraries will win cash prizes and the libraries will then be planted in community gardens in Detroit. The prizes are $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, $250 for third place and $100 for fourth and fifth place.

A little library is a doll house-size box placed near a home, small business or community garden that is filled with books anyone can take or leave. Detroit Little Libraries planted the first Little Free Library in the city less than 18 months ago, and numerous partners and generous donors have helped provide thousands of books in 150 in locations throughout Detroit.

You can vote at the fair or on Facebook. The deadline is Labor Day.

Here are a few examples of the little libraries you’ll see at the fair.


“The Cornfield” by Emilie Beadle, Northville



“Marvel at Literacy” by Luke MacGilvray, Hamtramck



“Reading and Imagination” by Marianne Audrey Burrows, Detroit



“The Butterfly Effect: Endangered Reading” by Eric Millikin



The encounter of the Eagle and The Condor” Inty Muenala, Commerce Township



“Once Upon A Time” by Angelica “Jelly” Estrada-Harris, Wyandotte



“Bees” by Tony Rave, Detroit

Showcasing our very talented local artists is great, but that’s not the real reason Detroit Little Libraries linked up with the state fair. It is to call attention to the project and the need for books in Detroit.

“This is a “grass and farm” roots initiative to create easy access and put books in the hands of youth and adults in the city,” says Steve Masters, State Fair executive director, “We are very excited about long-term prospects for this program to foster literacy around the already thriving urban garden hubs in Detroit.”

The idea is to get more kids – and adults – reading. Unfortunately, the reading statistics for many kids in Detroit are dismal – 12 percent can’t read and 33 percent don’t read. Only 11 percent are elite readers. A recent New York University study shows there is just one book for every 42 children in a Detroit neighborhood.

Detroit Little Libraries wants to change that. The goal is to plant 313 little libraries in Detroit and adjacent communities. It has been working with individuals, the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department, churches, Rotary Clubs, the Boy Scouts, local businesses, brick and mortar libraries, and others and, so far, as planted an estimated 160 not even two years into the effort. The partnership with Detroit Parks and Recreation will put libraries in 62 public parks slated for refurbishing.

Getting books in to Detroit schools is also essential. Unfortunately, many schools don’t books to fill their libraries. Alycia Meriweather, the new interim superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, is doing something about it. She launched the Detroit 97 School Project with a goal of having a Little Free Library at all 97 DPS schools.

If you want to bring a book along to the State Fair put in the little library, all the better.

Detroit Little Libraries is an all-volunteer organization and all donations go directly to build and inspire new little libraries in the city. Its goal is to make Detroit the Little Free Library Capital of the US.

“We are working to increase the circulation of more books for children in Detroit to help give them tools to be successful in school, and life,” says Kim Kozlowski, of Detroit Little Libraries. “Reading has so many benefits, but among the most important is it builds vocabulary. Words help people define others, and themselves. A vast vocabulary has the potential to change the trajectory of someone’s life.”

Kim and company

Kim Kozlowski, founder of Detroit Little Libraries (center), and company show off some of the Little Libraries.

The Michigan State Fair will also install 20 brand new Little Library Boxes at some of the most high profile and popular Urban Garden locations in Detroit, filled with donated books for adults and children, with a focus on Michigan authors and origins.

Check out the website to see what you can do to bring the magic of books to Detroit’s neighborhoods and help kids learn to read. You can donate, start a Crowd Fund, build a Little Library or be a promoter and inspire others through matching-fund phases, community library builds, and other creative ideas you may have.

“Can I Help It If I Love to Read?” by Niagara, Hell, Mich.

“Can I Help It If I Love to Read?” by Niagara, Hell, Mich.

The Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair runs through September 5. For more information about the Little Library Prize Program and Readers Roundup go to

– Photos of Little Libraries from Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair Facebook. Lead photo: Treasure Adventures” by Cleo Anderson, Detroit.

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