How communities around the world are promoting literacy and the joy of reading

The piece below was translated and edited from the original  Spanish version on the blog of our Spanish site Idealistas. The links below also go to Spanish websites. Check them out!

This week is banned books week in the US, where a variety of institutions like schools and libraries, come together to explore what books are challenged and why.

However, while we continue debate what to read, it’s still a great time to share the power and importance of reading. Around the world, communities are coming up with innovative ways to promote literacy.

Books by the pound in Madrid

Photo from “The Butcher Shop,” selling second-hand books by the pound in Madrid.

A former butcher shop now sells books for 10 euros per kilogram (about $6 per pound at the start of September 2012). It’s an ingenious way to keep second-hand books in circulation and brighten up an older city marketplace with the beauty of literature.

Mini libraries in Bogatá

Photo Credit: Fundalectura.org

In the capital of Colombia, Bus Stops for Books in Parks has operated for nearly 10 years with a clear mission: to encourage literacy for the entire nation. Every day, volunteers participate in staffing these miniature libraries where they lend books, read aloud, offer activities for children, and create opportunities for people to engage in conversation. There are 47 of these bookstops in the city of Bogotá and a total of 100 across the country.

Book exchanges in phone booths

Photo credit: Graceful Spoon

Thanks to the growth of cell phones, many of the phone booths in NYC go unused. New York City architect John Locke has found a creative opportunity to re-use these spaces as improvised book exchanges, where passers-by can leave or find books. New York follows Westbury-sub-Mendip in the UK, where a phone booth has served as a local site for exchanging books since 2009.

‘Bicicloteca’ in São Paulo

Photo Credit: Green Mobility, Creative Commons/Flickr

And lastly, from Brazil, this unusual library on wheels carries books to people who are unable to check them out, usually homeless people as they often lack the documents necessary for getting books from the library. Additionally, they use solar panels, which allows the Bicicloteca (a blend of Portuguese bicicleta + biblioteca) to access the Internet.

Do you know of another initiative where people are getting books to people who need or want them? Share in the comments below.

Tags: ,





Comments (2)


  1. Danielle Oakes writes:
    October 4, 2012 at 11:02 am

    New Haven Reads, 45 Bristol St, New Haven, CT USA, has free books.


  2. vashti Dubois writes:
    October 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    At Tree house books in North Philadelphia we offer Life With Books an after school program which is part urban literary cafe part one room school house. In addition to creating a safe and comfortable environment for children to read books and to learn to love Reading we give away thousands of books just outside our non profit five days a week.
    Check us out at treehousebooks.org


Sorry, commenting is now closed on Idealists in Action.
Check out our new blog and join the Idealist Network conversation on the Connector Hub.



Like what you're reading?

Subscribe and get fresh daily updates from Idealists in Action.