Between video games, smartphone apps and endless TV, it’s not easy to get kids excited about reading. So when a 9-year-old boy in Leawood, Kansas, wanted to share his love of reading with the neighborhood via a “Little Free Library” in the front yard, his family was all for it.
“It’s kind of like I’m in a whole other world and I like that,” the told a local news station about his love of reading. “I like adventure stories because I’m in the adventure and it’s fun.”
With the help of his Dad and Grandfather, Spencer Collins created a cute little cabinet for the books he wanted to share. The idea was to surprise his Mom for Mother’s Day (she had mentioned wanting one). He even made a sign for the front that explained how passers-by should use the little library. It read simply, “Take a book, Leave a book.”
The idea behind the give-and-take book sharing is for people to “get into reading, get to know your neighbors, and just make new, meet new people, make friends,” Spencer told Fox4KC.com.
They put the little free library in the front yard, and Spencer’s Mom was thrilled. Then they went on vacation, eager to see if books would change places in their absence. Upon their return, they were shocked to find a note from the City, threatening them with a fine.
“When we got home from vacation, there was a letter from the city of Leawood saying that it was in code violation and it needed to be down by the 19th or we would receive a citation,” said Spencer’s mother, Sarah Collins.
The City of Leawood said the little house is an accessory structure (a building that isn’t attached to someone’s home), something that violate a long-standing city ordinance.
“It applies to any structure, so we aren’t targeting the little libraries. You couldn’t put a bookcase out there, or a couch out there, or any items like that,” said Leawood director of community development Richard Coleman. This misguided application isn’t the first time a city ordinance has destroyed a community-member’s quest to do good. Who can forget the Oak Park mom who was threatened with jail time for planting a garden in her front yard? Or the multiple groups who have been banned from giving free food to the homeless?
Spencer was crushed when his parents told him they would have to move the little free library from its post in the front yard. Now it sits in the garage where no one but invited visitors can see it.
The city ordinance may not have been created to target Spencer’s attempt to share his love of reading with the community, but it has certainly become a casualty. No surprisingly, Spencer’s family disagrees with the way the city has chosen to apply the law.
Spencer Collins says he plans to take the issue up with City Hall.
“I want them to change the law. That’s my main thought. I just don’t like it. I think it’s unfair because it’s really good to the community,” Spencer said. And what does he plan to say to the Leawood City Council at their next meeting?
“I would tell them why it’s good for the community and why they should drop the law,” he said. “I just want to talk to them about how good it is.”
If you think the city of Leawood should change their law and allow Spencer Collins to keep his library, please sign and share this petition!
Image via KMBC