UFT members at Bronx Park MS organized a book drive this fall to make sure the pandemic didn’t stop their students from reading. When their school went remote in the spring, students lost access to the school library. This year, members were determined to make sure both in-school and remote students had access to books.
“Reading at home is such a crucial part of learning and becoming a better reader,” said English language arts teacher Rebecca Meyer, one of the Bronx Park educators who organized the book drive.
Meyer, along with her fellow ELA teachers Regina Arone, Andrea Clavell and Michele Neils, spent the summer gathering books for their students.
Arone said they “used Facebook Marketplace to touch base with retiring teachers, who wanted the classroom libraries they had purchased in their many years of teaching to continue to give the gift of reading.”
They also created an Amazon Wish List to crowdsource hundreds of book donations.
In all, the teachers collected about 1,500 books. But not just any books would do.
“One of the driving forces was getting books that reflect their own experiences and who they are into the hands of the kids,” said Meyer. “It was really important to get books that are representative of our Latinx population and our LGBTQ students.”
The school’s parent coordinator, Madge Anderson, worked with the PTA to get more than 300 new books with a focus on Black, Arab and Latino authors.
And the teachers looked at library catalogs for Young Adult books from the past five years because they said that genre has seen an increase in diverse representation in that time.
Once they had the books, the teachers used a library cataloging app called Libib to sort them so students could browse the selection remotely.
“We had to scan them all into different categories,” said Neils, including realistic fiction, Spanish language, horror, science fiction, graphic novels and anime.
Students could select three books, which were packed for them in individual totes that they or their parents could pick up at the school, taking proper coronavirus safety measures.
“It was really gratifying,” said Neils, “to see the kids become vested in reading and picking out the books.”