For members of the Enfield Teachers’ Association, three is a magic number.
For the third year in a row, teachers have collected books for young readers, giving local families a chance to build their home libraries and shape their children’s future. The first year of the event, the union collected 1,000 books; this year, the group gathered 1,589 titles in about two weeks, all of which were given to local children at Enfield’s Family Fun Festival earlier this fall.
“Being a part of this event puts us in the community in a role outside the classroom,” says ETA’s Kelly Shea, who teachers third grade at Prudence Crandall School. Shea worked the ETA table at the festival, along with several co-workers. “It reminds families and students that we care about being involved in all aspects of their lives. Sometimes students in Enfield struggle to find books to stock their home libraries, so the ETA wants to help everyone kick off a new year of learning and support families at home with these resources.”
Books collected range from those suitable for kindergarten all the way through high school. Each year, teachers volunteer to sort the selections by grade level and genre, and then pack trios of books into large Ziploc bags labeled by age range.
Getting more books to families pays dividends in the classroom too, says Shea.
“We always give reading homework, and we know how hard it can be for some families to get around and to get books,” Shea said. “This puts the books right in their homes and makes it easier.”
The group is also making it possible for preschoolers to have greater exposure to books by distributing titles that work well for them.
“We have a ton of picture books,” says Shea. “We are really pushing the ‘read aloud’ element.”
After three years of staffing the book table at the town’s fall festival, ETA has found that they have repeat customers who come looking for books. Aside from providing choices that include board books, novels, nonfiction, and popular titles and topics for advanced readers, Enfield teachers also set up a special table were children can decorate bookmarks for their new selections.
ETA President Emily Hulevitch describes the event as a positive one for both for her association and the town, noting that outreach is an integral part of the association’s mission.
“We look for community projects where our members can help,” she says. These include everything from raising funds for a bench for local veterans, serving hot chocolate at the Veterans Day parade, adopting families for holiday gift-giving, helping plant a community garden, and donating gift cards to the local teen center.
“These efforts show the people of Enfield that we care about our students and our community. We are here for them and want to help them,” she says. “As a union, we have been working extremely hard to build positive relationships, and working together on projects like these show that we are united and want what’s best for the children of Enfield.”