Local children’s author, LaTonya Richardson will host a children’s book drive Monday, Feb. 19, through Saturday, March 3.

Richardson’s goal is to obtain at least 1,000 gently used, or like new children’s books of all genres. The books will be used to start a free library, with plans to have little free libraries at several locations throughout Pine Bluff.

Donation boxes will be inside the following locations for easy drop-offs: Johnny Huggins State Farm, 3801 Camden Road, Suite 24; Fathers & Sons Clothier, Jefferson Square; the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s fine arts lobby; and Jack & Jill Fun Zone in The Pines mall.

“About three years ago, I shared my vision to start a bookmobile with Stephen Bronskill, a co-founder of What’s Next Pine Bluff,” Richardson said in a news release. “I explained that growing up, a bookmobile made frequent visits to our neighborhood school for kids to check out books. I’ve always liked the bookmobile concept, but instead I would like to give the books away. He thought it was a great idea, and suggested I look into starting a little free library.”

The idea of a free library is “give a book to get a book.” Richardson understands not all children have a book to give. She plans to first give away books at a pop-up event March 31 hosted by Mt. Harmony Missionary Baptist Church. There will be other events afterward where children can exchange their books for others.

“Since then, I’ve researched, collected information and even dreamt about book drives and free libraries. 2018 is the year I will make it happen. “

Research, shared by Children’s Access to Print Material and Education Related Outcomes, found that children with greater access to print materials express more enjoyment of books, reading, and academics. Richardson wants to share the joy of reading with children of Pine Bluff, while encouraging them to become lifelong readers.

The book drive is a family affair. Richardson has also partnered with A-Plus Outreach Scholarship founded by her daughter Ajia Richardson and Ashley Gragg, as well as Mt. Harmony church.

Richardson is the author of the picture book, Going On a Bear Hunt, released March 2017, and will publish a new picture book this spring. Details: latonya@larichmedia.com .