The Manhattan Public Library, in conjunction with the Manhattan-Ogden School District, will give away free children’s books Saturday morning at the Downtown Farmers Market.

The book giveaway, which starts at 8 a.m. and runs through the end of the market at 1 p.m. or whenever books run out, is funded through a $1,500 from the Literacy Network of Kansas. Library staff will give each infants through 5th graders a free, age-appropriate book, along with summer literacy activities and info on the library’s summer reading program. The market is held in the mall parking lot at 3rd and Leavenworth.

Jennifer Bergen, program and children’s services manager for the library, said the library was originally going to use the grant to host summer story time hours and in-person activities, but given the pandemic and the closure of the library building, staff wanted to avoid large crowds of people.

“It’s about getting the hands of kids and making sure they have some good reading material this summer,” she said.

Bergen said encouraging literacy at home is especially important when children might not have the opportunity to go to the library.

The books include eight different titles, which are all themed around the library’s summer reading theme of “Imagine Your Story,” which highlights fantasy, fairy tales and folklore stories.

“We hope to get kids excited about reading over the summer,” she said. “School’s done, and we don’t want them to lose their reading skills. For younger kids, it’s also important for their parents to read aloud to them as much as possible.

“It’s about encouraging literacy at home,” she added. “Studies show that the more books a kid has at home, the more likely they are to succeed and go further with their education. We want to get books into homes, especially when the library building isn’t as accessible.”

Bergen said the library plans to hold two additional smaller book giveaways later in the summer, alongside the school district’s planned book giveaways at summer feeding sites in June.