The Flagler Department of Health has joined the international nonprofit Little Free Library with its own little library, the "Big Blue Box."
The DOH-Flagler opened its little library as part of the DOH’s initiative to further childhood literacy. Mary Kauffman, a DOH-Flagler senior health educator with Women, Infants and Children and Nutrition Services, came up with the idea after seeing Little Free Library boxes when she worked at the DOH-Volusia office.
Kauffman said the DOH-Flagler’s little library has only been running since October, but has already garnered interest from visitors and patients.
“Our Health Department serves a lot of lower income families that don't necessarily have the transportation to get to the library,” she said.
The DOH-Flagler office is located at 301 Dr. Carter Boulevard, Bunnell, and the Big Blue Box is to the right of the main entrance, by the sidewalk leading to the WIC center.
Kauffman said it was placed close to the parking lot and sidewalk to make it as accessible as possible.
The Little Free Library's goal is to provide access to books to every community. The initiative started in 2009 in Wisconsin. There are now more than 150,000 registered Little Free Libraries, in all 50 states and in countries around the world, according to the nonprofit’s website.
Kauffman said that the little library has already seen enough activity that she needed to buy more books to keep the library stocked. Ideally, participants would swap the books they take with books of their own, she said.
“In order for these to be sustainable, it really should be a community effort,” she said.
Including DOH-Flagler’s Big Blue Box, Flagler County has nine libraries registered on the Little Free Library mobile app, including one built by the city of Palm Coast in the Community Center’s playground.
Kauffman said the Little Free Library, as a nonprofit initiative, qualifies for grant funding. The Florida Healthy Babies grant funded the Big Blue Box and its contents as part of the DOH’s goal to further childhood literacy.
Kids need easier access to books. ... Whatever we can do to help get books in the hands of children — I just want to start doing that more often."
— MARY KAUFFMAN, senior health educator with DOH-Flagler
To that end, books in the DOH-Flagler Little Free Library are geared toward children 8 or younger, including babies, Kauffman said.
“I loved reading to my kids when they were really, really small,” she said. “And I feel like it helps so much in developing their literacy skills.”
According to the Florida Literacy Coalition’s analysis of 2020 census data, 16.6% of Flagler County’s population is at or below Level 1 Literacy. Someone at Level 1 literacy would struggle with reading and writing more than short materials or completing simple tasks, like filling out forms, according to the coalition’s website.
“Kids need easier access to books,” Kauffman said. “Whatever we can do to help get books in the hands of children — I just want to start doing that more often.”
Sierra Williams is a staff writer for the Palm Coast Observer covering a variety of topics, including government and crime. She graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2021 with her bachelor's degree in print/digital journalism and a minor in political science. Sierra moved to Palm Coast in September 2022 and is a Florida native from Brevard County.