I must describe a remarkable and heartwarming experience that I had a few weeks ago.
The Friends of the Library of Los Altos received an anonymous donation for teachers of an East Palo Alto elementary school to purchase books from our sale for their classrooms. More than 90 percent of the kids at this school come from low-income families and do not speak English as their primary language. I hosted the “tryout team” for the school to see if it was worth teachers’ time to come to get books from the sale.
My guests were the school librarian (a retired librarian who now volunteers 20 hours per week in the school library) and the school reading specialist (a former lawyer who finds more satisfaction teaching children). One of them looked at our children’s book room and said, “I feel like a child in a candy store.” Each of them proceeded to select books, not so much by title, but associating each book with a child. “Johnny will love this one.” “I can’t wait to see Sara’s face when I show her that I found this book for her.” Every student was, for these women, an individual with his or her own tastes and interests. They must know every child in the school. I kept thinking how lucky we are to have such dedicated people teaching our children.
During the sale, five other teachers from the same school came to select books. I have since heard that they were all very pleased. At no cost to the teachers, they acquired approximately 450 books for their classrooms.
As I saw their delight, I realized how powerful volunteering and literacy donations can be. It starts with the residents who donate their books to the Friends of the Library knowing that each book will end up in another’s hands, and the money earned will go to the library. It’s made possible by the Friends who take the time to sort the books and run the sales.
This started as a trial to see how many teachers would be interested. I am as excited as can be by the results of the project. This is a win-win for everyone. Teachers receive books for their classrooms without having to put out their own money (which many of them do today) and know the community is supporting them. Book donors see the chance that their books will be used by dozens of kids instead of one. And the financial donor supported literacy efforts for children and future book purchases for the Los Altos Library at the same time.
As a result, the Friends have created a Books for Schools fund to continue and expand this program, which will enable teachers from public schools (K-8) to obtain books at our sales. Caring citizens can contribute by giving to the Friends of the Library of Los Altos Books for Schools fund. I’m hoping that other Friends of the Library groups also set up similar funds to enable public school teachers in every community to take part.
Elayne Dauber is a member of the Friends of the Library of Los Altos.