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Denver gets first Little Free Library filled with books by Indigenous authors


DENVER — Across Denver, dozens of Little Free Library stands make books available to communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access. A new location in the Westwood neighborhood, outside of the Denver Indian Center, is now offering a selection of books as diverse as the kids who will read them.

Little Free Library, in partnership with Crayola and HarperCollins’ imprint for Indigenous authors known as Heartdrum, donated the new book stand and a collection of children’s and young adult books written by Black, Indigenous and People of Color authors.

The Denver Indian Center, an urban cultural gathering place that offers resources to the local American Indian and Alaska Native community, requested for the new library box to be installed in front of their building.

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“They will be the first ones in Denver with an Indigenous library,” said Talia Miracle, who runs Little Free Library’s Indigenous Library Program. “Tribal communities sometimes don’t have great access to books and literacy resources. So, the program was really intended to just be able to provide those resources where they’re most needed,” Miracle said.

Little Free Library Denver Indian Center

Drew Smith, Denver7

The new Little Free Library is installed just outside of the Denver Indian Center in Westwood.

The books will include We Are Water Protectors, Firekeeper’s Daughter and Rez Ball, written by Byron Graves, who grew up on an Indian reservation and now lives in Denver.

Graves said as a child, he didn’t see himself portrayed in books.

“When I was in high school, and they were getting me to try to understand Shakespeare, it made me not like reading,” Graves said. “It’s really important to show kids that the books that represent them are out there.”

That’s why he wrote Rez Ball.

Byron Graves reading Rez Ball

Drew Smith, Denver7

Byron Graves introduces young people to Rez Ball through book readings and conversations on social media.

“One of the best writing tips you’ll ever get is write what you know,” he said. “I grew up playing basketball. I grew up on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota.”

Once Graves decided to capture that unique experience in writing, “the book just kind of poured out of me,” he said.

“Basketball on a lot of Indigenous reservations is everything,” he said. “You’re playing in packed gymnasiums and the energy and the excitement and being able to go anywhere on your reservation and have people support you and high five you.”

Byron Graves playing basketball

Courtesy of Byron Graves

Byron Graves harnessed his experience playing basketball to inspire his storytelling.

It’s an excitement he harnessed to draw young readers into his book. And by portraying his own experience, he hopes to show that Indigenous people are diverse and very much still present.

“We’re not just a homogenous group,” he said. “Every tribe has their own language, their own culture, their own history. And we’re not dead, we’re here.”

Rez Ball has won the American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award and the American Library Association William C. Morris Debut Award. But Graves said the recognition that means the most comes from readers who finally feel represented.

“It was an afro-indigenous kid on the reservation where I’m from,” Graves said. “He came up to me and he said, ‘I never thought I would see myself in a book, and one of the characters in your book, that’s me.’”

Rez Ball

Drew Smith, Denver7

The cover of Byron Graves’ book Rez Ball portrays an Indigenous teenager, which means a lot to those seeing themselves represented for the first time.

But even with inclusive books like his more widely published now, access is still a challenge.

“On a lot of Indian reservations or in a lot of Indigenous communities, we don’t have a lot of public library access,” he said. “The cool thing with Little Free Libraries is it promotes literacy, and it makes the accessibility of books easier to get to.”

With a new location in Westwood, books like his will be even more accessible.

“I was writing Rez Ball for not only Indigenous readers, but reluctant readers,” Graves said. “And if they can start reading one book, like Rez Ball, then hopefully they go grab another book.”

See an interactive map of Little Free Library locations below, courtesy of LittleFreeLibrary.com






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