At least eight school bus drivers in Clay County, Fla., volunteered a whole Saturday earlier this fall to drive busloads of families from their schools to a First Book distribution of 40,000 free new books. For the big event, sponsored by the Clay Educational Staff Professional Association and the AFT, among others, the drivers named their buses after children's book favorites like The Cat in the Hat and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and had copies of the books on hand.
But maybe the most impressive thing about the bus drivers' effort was their intention to coordinate students' reading on the school bus with their lessons in the classroom. To this end, the drivers planned to work with teachers and paraprofessionals, as well as parents, in making sure kids get a little extra boost from their reading.
The book distribution drew an overflow crowd of families and school staff; all of the educators had pre-registered online with First Book. They left the junior high school in Green Cove Springs carrying armloads and boxes full of new titles, and the bus drivers obtained additional books for early readers later on.
The turnout was a testament to great partnership among CESPA, the Clay County Education Association and the school district, all working together to get the word out. Clay County has nine Title I schools, and the fact that this area was hit by Hurricane Irma made the demand for books even greater. School staff began planning the event months in advance, spreading the word and generating excitement. A trailer carrying 40,000 books arrived the day before the giveaway, met by dozens of volunteers who sorted the books by age and topic.
First Book, an AFT partner with a member network of more than 350,000 educators, has distributed more than 170 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children in need.
If you work in a Title I-eligible school, or if more than 70 percent of your students come from low-income families, register at www.FirstBook.org/AFT for access to new, low-cost, high-quality books, as well as school supplies, hygiene products and more.
[Annette Licitra, Leslie Getzinger]