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Cassidy Webb

Little Free Library Competition: Making Sure Every Child Reads


According to the Department of Education, more than 46% of students entering fourth grade in Florida are not reading proficiently and just 53% of Florida third graders passed the state’s reading test in 2022.

This winter, the South Florida Lending Hands and ART13 are honored to be collaborating with Action for Literacy and the City of Fort Lauderdale Neighbor Volunteer Office on the Little Free Libraries competition – a project that will help make sure more elementary school students can read while adding creative artwork to the community.

Frank Polanco, an organizer and curator of the Little Free Libraries Competition, explains that “the goal of this competition is to first give well-established artists as well as those emerging a platform to create a beautiful, meaningful artwork that will not only beautify our communities but will become a little landmark that will invite children and adults alike to visit them. This will allow them to be able to take a book or share a book.”

The Little Free Library Competition

ART13 is producing a competition where local artists can enter to paint blank canvas libraries for cash prizes. The idea originated in 2019 between Frank Polanco, a local photographer and artist, Jorg Hruschka, Chief Service Officer in the City of Fort Lauderdale Neighbor Volunteer Office, and Mark Miller, President at Action for Literacy. Artists are encouraged to use their imagination and use paints that are durable enough to withstand the natural elements.

The completed Little Free Libraries will be filled with books that are donated by residents, local organizations, libraries, and local businesses. The Little Free Libraries will be installed along Sistrunk Blvd and will be placed in city properties as well as those that are privately owned and have agreed to be a part of the mission.

Making Sure Every Child Reads by Third Grade

The goal of the competition is to make sure every child reads by third grade. Poor reading skills can hinder students’ success in the classroom and beyond, so it’s essential to promote reading among youth.

Having public access to the books in the Little Free Libraries will help encourage young people to read more. Displaying libraries designed with beautiful, unique artwork will further attract young people to the libraries, sparking their interest and curiosity. According to organizer Frank Polanco, “the kids in dire need of learning and/or enhancing their reading skills to be the ones that will benefit the most in every community.”

Frank explains that the competition is also an opportunity for the participating artists to express themselves and showcase their talents, too. “The artist painting a Little Free Library will be able to shine publicly in our communities so they can carry a sense of pride knowing that their creative results will be benefiting others.”

The Little Free Libraries manufacturing and installation will be performed by the City of Fort Lauderdale Neighbor Volunteer Office. They have a large warehouse to store books as well as a mobile library truck that allows volunteers to restock and maintain all of the Little Free Libraries around town, ensuring that the libraries stay stocked and that the mission to promote literacy continues.

Apply to Enter the Competition Today

Artists can enter the competition by filling out the application at https://www.artthirteen.com/sistrunk. Once your application is received, you will get an email with directions about picking up your blank canvas Little Free Library.

Participants have until mid-December to complete their artwork and return their Little Free Library. Each artist will receive a stipend and their artwork will be entered into the competition for cash prizes that are issued and presented by Action for Literacy.

Winners are chosen by votes from a panel of judges consisting of artists, elected officials, community members, and art enthusiasts. The judges will cast their votes based on creativity, originality, theme, colors used, technique, and the message conveyed through the artwork.

The winners will be announced at the King Holiday Celebration event in January 2023 and all participating artists are expected to attend the event. The King Holiday Celebration is presented by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee and the City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department. There will be a parade scheduled along Sistrunk Boulevard where the Little Free Libraries installations will be located.

If you’re interested in entering the competition or reading the rules and guidelines, check out ART13’s website today.


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