Hosting a first book event, in which books are distributed for free to children and families who may not have access to them otherwise, is a great way to build community. But members of the Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Employees Association in New York took the event a step further and involved their students in the giveaway, extending the lesson beyond reading and into team building and collaboration.
The BOCES event was held at the Myers Center, a vocational, technical and special education center for students from 31 school districts in upstate New York. More than 500 students attend classes there in everything from culinary arts to heavy machinery operations, but they have few opportunities to interact beyond their individual programs. At the Sept. 20 book giveaway, however, they worked together with staff to unload, sort and distribute the more than 40,000 books.
Sandie Carner-Shafran, a PSRP member and New York State United Teachers board member, helped organize the event with support from her local, SABEA President Ruth Shippee and Superintendent James Dexter, who together registered 2,000 educators and staff to host the book truck. Participating students were involved in every aspect of the giveaway, getting hands-on experience in teamwork and problem solving. And educators used the event as a teachable moment: A graphic design instructor, for example, created a lesson plan asking students to design an eye-catching book cover that also conveyed the book’s plot.
Educators and staff noted that there were no disciplinary issues while the kids were working, and many special education students who have difficulty interacting with others really came out of their shells, even volunteering for extra shifts. A nursing program student who doesn’t often interact with many students noted that this was the first time she really felt part of the school.
The community came out as well: Navy personnel volunteered and delivered books to military families on a nearby military base, and a local police officer chose books to keep in his patrol car for the children he encounters on the job. The whole community came together to reclaim the promise of public education and instill a love of reading.