The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is partnering with Native American tribes and two national organizations to increase access to literary resources.
The project is called the Reading Nation Waterfall. It’s based on research that showed school libraries in Native American tribes are often under-funded, leading to book deserts.
Five Native American tribes will participate in the project, including North Carolina's Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Lumbee Tribe.
Program Director Anthony Chow said it's important for Native American children to see themselves in the books they read.
"It doesn't seem welcoming to us," he said. "We don't see our history and culture and people in the titles on your shelves. Why don't we try little free libraries? Why don't why we try shifting the script?"
When creating this project, researchers found that national fourth grade reading scores have increased in the U.S. in all racial and ethnic groups except American Indian/Alaskan Natives.
Chow said the goal of the project is to break down existing barriers to literacy and improve reading scores for Native American youth.
"Removing that barrier of cost is the key, removing that barrier of asking a single parent home to have to come to the library is key," he said. "We really view this as a paradigm shift for libraries."
Book distribution will start at the end of the month.