When I first started gifting new, free books door to door, I never expected I’d baby-sit a reader’s snake on the family’s front steps while the reader was busy ordering titles. But these are the kinds of surprising adventures that pop up in my day now.

Kelly Sterns keeps an eye on a pet snake while the snake’s boy looks over the Magic Treehouse books and other offerings at Walking Books Library. Photo courtesy of Kelly Sterns

Walking Books Library, which gives new books, offers a selection to elders to gift to their young relatives as well as lends them, got started very simply on my country walks to the post office and grocery store. Passing by rural kids in their yards, I thought maybe they’d like a book or two to read. Over time and with help from wonderful organizations like First Book, it now gives out $20,000 worth of new books a year.

Who knows? If I weren’t a nerd and loved sports, maybe I’d be handing out free footballs instead! If I can nickel and dime a project like this together, think about what you could do in your own neighborhood. I hope anyone reading this considers that a challenge.

We get titles donated by authors near and far, from Diana Nyad, who swam from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage in her 60s, to Ashley Bryan, a Mainer who illustrates kids’ books as well as creating a visual memoir about facing racism while fighting in World War II.

Most recently, we were gifted a large selection of the Magic Treehouse series, which is how I came to be holding that snake against my better judgment. The snake’s boy was selecting specifically which Magic Treehouse books to order with the gift card as well as the Playaway recording he thought looked interesting as well. That child, the snake and those books are just fine, while I am still recovering my nerves.

Right now, I have the temerity to call my broken pickup, which stores everything, a library, but hopefully one day we’ll be tacking up a sign on the outside of a shed or small cabin to give Walking Books Library a proper home. Though we might need an outdoor waiting area for readers who arrive with snakes, but I can worry about that later.

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