SOLANA BEACH — Residents or visitors to the city’s La Colonia de Eden Gardens neighborhood might have spotted a bright blue box in front of Wardell Builders, full to the brim with books in both Spanish and English.
Such boxes may soon become a regular sight in La Colonia, with the Valley Avenue remodeling company hoping their Little Free Library might set an example for other neighborhood businesses or residents.
“I just think it’s a great idea for kids to have books,” said Tracy Wardell, who operates the business with her husband, Terry.
For Wardell Builders, the idea was as simple as providing easy access to reading — particularly in a community with rich cultural and linguistic diversity. La Colonia is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the area, known for its Mexican-American roots.
The Solana Beach residents have long been active in the La Colonia community, where they started their business about 15 years ago. And during that time, they’ve made it a point to promote books and reading in the area.
Wardell said the business previously hosted a book-mobile at the annual La Colonia Día de los Muertos event and has donated books to the Head Start program at St. Leo’s, a local church just down the street.
“We’re happy to help out any way we can, as often as we can,” said Wardell.
Inspired by the Little Free Libraries concept — which has been widely embraced across the country — the Wardells purchased a blue-colored, recycled-plastic display case and posted it near the front of their building.
In order to get the box filled and spread the word, the Wardells turned to active La Colonia resident Lisa Montes, also the vice president of the La Colonia Community Foundation.
She was able to gather books for the box by approaching Oceanside resident Edward Becerra, who founded a nonprofit called Education Begins in the Home. The organization aims to promote literacy in the Latino community by providing free books — a service that will now be extended to the Wardells’ library box.
Montes is hoping to galvanize the rest of the community to do something similar — challenging local business to purchase and post Little Free Libraries on their own properties.
She said Becerra is open to providing books for other future mini-libraries in La Colonia as well.
The possibility has now become a neighborhood effort, with Montes turning to the nearby La Colonia Boys & Girls Club branch to help store any books to be used for Little Free Libraries, and reaching out to La Colonia Changers, a neighborhood youth activist group, to help organize the books and keep the boxes well-stocked.
“We have a library (in Solana Beach), it’s a great resource, but this is just another way to reach out to people to promote literacy,” Montes said.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.