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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Gene Tackett looks through the books of the first Wendy's Words Library in the front yard of Susan Reep's home in 2012. The libraries honor Gene Tackett's wife, Wendy Wayne, who died earlier that year.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Gene Tackett tells a story about his wife Wendy Wayne, who passed away this year, during the official opening of the first Wendy's Words Library in the front yard of Susan Reep's home. Retired teachers Susan Reep, left, and Pat Johnson, not pictured, started the libraries as a living tribute to Wendy with the mission of the little libraries being to promote reading and foster neighborhoods. More of the libraries are planned.

A little wooden box stands on Susan Reep's front yard.

It's shaped like a house, hand-painted with flowers and clouds and adorned with Christmas lights. Inside the house are the residents -- books.

Reed pulled out one of the books, "Angela's Ashes," Wednesday. Inside the front cover was a sticker with 10 phrases.

"Nurture your heritage and continue to make the world a better place," read the first phrase.

The phrases are Wendy's Words of Wisdom, named for Wendy Wayne, a well-known local champion of children's causes who died of cancer in June.

The phrases are culled from speeches she gave throughout her lifetime. And the little wooden book house is the first of Wendy's Words Libraries, small book collections to be placed on volunteers' front lawns to honor Wayne.

"She would love the idea," Reep said of Wayne, her close friend. "I know she would. She would love the idea of community and books. She might be a little abashed that her words of wisdoms were in each book."

This first library, in Reep's front yard in a gated community in northwest Bakersfield, was officially opened Wednesday morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Reep's friends and family held up a makeshift ribbon, kept together with tape. Wayne's husband, Gene Tackett, grazed the ribbon with golden cardboard scissors, and the group pulled apart the taped ribbon.

Wendy's Words Libraries is based on the Little Free Library model from around the country. People can come up, take a book and leave another book. Or they can return the book they took later. Or they can even keep the book if they want.

Reep and her friend Pat Johnson, both retired teachers, started Wendy's Words Libraries shortly after Wayne's death. Reep was tasked with paying-it-forward to Wayne by sharing one of her favorite books and leaving it in the public place. That seemed too easy, Reep said, so she came up with the idea for the libraries.

The library on Reep's lawn has been there for about two weeks, and it's already serving it's purpose, she said. Every afternoon, she sees neighborhood children on her lawn, coming to grab a book or replace one.

One kid even left a book report in the library the kid thought someone might want to read, she said.

"We're trying to foster community, encourage literacy and promote reading," she said.

There are 12 other libraries planned to open. One of them will be at Tackett's house on 19th Street. That one should be ready in about a month, he said.

The libraries are a fitting tribute to Wayne because she read all the time, he said. She read for pleasure and to learn more. She also read to fulfill her goal of visiting all seven continents and swimming in all five oceans, he said.

"We don't always have a chance to fulfill all our fantasies," Tackett said. "Wendy read to live her fantasies."