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First Book giveaway at PS 323, Brooklyn

Empowering children through reading
New York Teacher
More than 700 participants pick their favorites from the stacks of books.
Miller Photography
Three students from PS 221 in Crown Heights decide there’s no time like the present to enjoy their new books.

Hundreds of parents, teachers and children were lined up and ready to choose from among 40,000 free books when the gates opened on Oct. 7 at the First Book event co-sponsored by the UFT at PS 323 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Paul Lee, his wife, Joann, and their two daughters were delighted they had made a last-minute decision to see what the giveaway was all about. With armloads of books to see them through the long winter ahead, Lee said, “I’m surprised at the crowds, the set-up and all the books we have to choose from. I love it and I’m already looking forward to next year.” The UFT and the AFT’s partnership with First Book, a nonprofit organization, brings books to communities and children who might not otherwise have access to them. The stacks and stacks include titles to tempt everyone from preschoolers to adults. Teachers also were well-represented in the schoolyard crowd, searching for books suitable for their school’s populations. Teacher Abi Hall of PS 135, returning for a second year, took 40 books back to her Flatbush school. “Once again, I was impressed by the happy crowds, the variety of titles to choose from and the efficiency of such a huge undertaking,” she said. “The trick is to come early before the favorite books disappear.” Scores of teachers, community members and UFT Brooklyn borough office staffers unpacked, sorted and arranged the books according to age level. Anthony Harmon, the UFT director of parent and community outreach who helped organize the event, said, “The First Book giveaway is a way to empower children by encouraging them to read.” 

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