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Family Literacy and Book Fair

UFT, AFT give away 11,000 books
New York Teacher
Two parents wearing masks go through a selection of books with their children, also wearing masks.
Maria Bastone

Families choose from thousands of books being given away at the “Reading Opens the World” Family Literacy and Book Fair at PS 1 in Manhattan.

Hundreds of children, families and educators expanded their home and school libraries thanks to the more than 11,000 free books given away by the American Federation of Teachers and the UFT on March 19 at PS 1 in Manhattan.

The “Reading Opens the World” Family Literacy and Book Fair was part of the AFT’s Reading Opens the World campaign, which has a goal of distributing one million books nationwide and supporting local educator-parent projects. Since the AFT kicked off the initiative in December 2021, it has given away more than 120,000 books.

“That’s what a teachers union does on the local and national level: provide books to kids, parents and communities,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, who attended the book fair with UFT President Michael Mulgrew and local elected officials.

The event at the Chinatown school was also open to staff, students and parents at nine neighboring schools.

PS 1 paraprofessional Selenia Reynoso volunteered at the book fair, helping children select books and interpreting some of the day’s speeches into Spanish.

“It is wonderful that we’re doing this in school because a lot of children and families don’t have the money for books,” said Reynoso, a para who works with 5th-graders. “This is a great opportunity.”

She brought her own children — Noah, 4, and Zoe, 7 — who love books. Noah reached for “The Mighty Maui Makes a Friend,” part of the Disney Moana series, while Zoe selected “Frozen II.”

Disney Publishing, through its “Magic of Storytelling” campaign, and First Book, a nonprofit reading initiative, were partners in the book fair. Among the offerings were many Disney Publishing titles as well as titles with Asian-Pacific characters and themes, bilingual Spanish-English books and books by African-American authors.

Carmen Romero, a 5th-grade teacher from nearby PS/IS 89 in Battery Park City, said the books at the fair are relevant because they offer a range of real-life stories and experiences.

“It is so important for children to see themselves represented in the books they read and have in their classroom. I can remember as a child that the only ‘Carmens’ in any stories were always destitute,” Romero said.

Mulgrew watched students select from among the stacks of books. “You can see the joy in children’s faces,” he said. “That’s what we are here for — to make sure, after everything our students and families have gone through, that they get to experience joy and laughter and a love of reading.”