MARLBORO >> Basketball practice had ended, the evening yoga class was just leaving. I was left alone in the multi-purpose and now empty Marlboro Elementary School gym with 12 boxes of books. As I set up the tables and created displays of board books, graphic novels, and chapter books, I felt like an elf, transforming the space for the Friday morning arrival of the 80 children at the school. It was year three of the Marlboro Book Fair!
The school has been working with Everyone's Books in Brattleboro to create a locally spun annual Book Fair. The book selection is tailored to the needs and desires of the school children which creates a very different selection than the traditional Scholastic Book Fair. Everyone's Books generously donates 20 percent of all sales to the school group. The Book Fair is one of many fundraisers for the Parents and Friends Group at Marlboro School.
As a librarian, writer, and parent, it brings me great joy to organize the Book Fair and see the excitement on the children's faces as they come into "their bookstore" clutching their crumpled dollars. However, each year I also noticed that where some kids would leave with a pile of books, many would leave with none despite having filled out a wish list. Teachers shared with me that for some kids the Book Fair was a source of anxiety, knowing they would not go home with a book.
This year The Marlboro Alliance, a community organization in Marlboro, agreed to purchase a new book for every child that filled out a wish list at the book fair. The atmosphere was transformed. News traveled fast between teachers, parents, and children, "Is it true? Do I get a free book from here?" said one first grader with wide, bright eyes. I had the pleasure of bringing a box of 65 new books (costing $517) to the school for teachers to hand out to kids, for free! This was in addition to all the books purchased by families and friends through the book fair on Friday and Saturday.
The Marlboro Alliance is a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation and the 'umbrella' for Marlboro's non-profit community organizations, including Marlboro Cares, The Marlboro Mixer Newsletter, and The Marlboro Fair. The Alliance is a silent warrior, providing camp and college scholarship funds, emergency funds to families in need, and over time encouraging the town to create a community center and ongoing community events. For more information, please go to their website www.marlboroalliance.com
With educational funds being funneled into testing preparation and administration, there are fewer and fewer programs that provide direct educational resources to children such as the RIF (Reading is Fundamental) program which also provides free books to low income families.
Kids flew around the tables, sharing their finds with each other, even tussling over a single copy of a desired book. They were exercising their own choice of books that excited them and knew that one of these items would be theirs to keep.