The McVey Elementary School students could hardly contain their excitement. Trying their best to maintain an orderly line, they practically ran out of the building to reach the tables and shelves overflowing with books.
The Scholastic Book Fair came to McVey Oct. 12 to 14 for the entire school to enjoy. PTA members set up the fair outside the building on the lawn, with a variety of books selling for $8 to $15. The goal is to inspire children to fall in love with reading.
“Nothing is better than crisp autumn air and the smell of new books,” read a flier sent home to parents by PTA co-chairs Jennifer Pevsner and Allison Vardakis. “Reading helps your child discover who they are while developing stronger reading skills.”
The event, held in the spring and fall, is traditionally in the school’s all-purpose room, but this year, because of Covid, it was outside.
“This was our biggest book fair fundraiser to date,” said Pevsner, a former PTA president. “I think we had amazing parents and volunteers and amazing teacher support in a year where our families have suffered financially from Covid, with some losing their job.”
There were children who didn’t bring money to the fair, but each one still left with a book, she said, because of donations from parents and teachers.
“This is my favorite event,” she said. “It’s good for the kids, even if they don’t want to buy a book, because it gets them out of the building to enjoy the fresh air. I feel like they light up and just love watching the excitement.”
Emma Rajnarain couldn’t decide which book to buy. A third-grader in Helana Gelleri’s class, she said chapter books are her favorite, but with so many for sale at the fair, she was having a tough time choosing one.
“I like how books inspire me,” Emma said. “Reading a book gives me feelings — is the book happy or sad? When you read it, you can feel it.”
Book fairs are important, McVey Assistant Principal Len Minerva said, because children are excited to attend them. “They go there thinking about what they want to read. Regardless of whether they buy the book, it sparks their interest,” he said. “A book fair reinforces the message that reading can be fun.”
He’s grateful, he said, for this year’s Scholastic Book Fair, as last year’s was canceled. It is one of the ways the district is working to restore a sense of normalcy for the children.
Aaron Jin, also a third-grader from Gelleri’s class, clutched a copy of “Popular Armies — Enter the Mine.” Then he looked for a second book to buy.
“I like to read,” he said, taking a book off the shelf and flipping through it. The “Popular Armies” book is from a game, but he said he likes it because it has cartoons, as it’s a graphic novel. “This is a mini-movie of a show in a book,” he noted.
McVey raised $2,000 at this year’s book fair, of which the school will receive 15 to 20 percent. All of the money goes back to the students, Pevsner said. Roughly $1,000 will go toward “Scholastic Dollars,” which she described as “fun funds.” The dollars can be used to purchase items from the Scholastic website, which the PTA uses to buy prizes for its bingo night, including posters, books, erasers and pencils. Or the funds are used to purchase books for the school’s library, or are given to a new teacher who is creating a classroom library.
There is even a Scholastic vending machine in the school lobby. If children go above and beyond for another student or are kind, they are given a gold coin, which they can put in the vending machine to receive a prize.
McVey’s PTA president, Karen Baker, said she loves books, particularly those from the mystery and crime genre. “There are so many different types of books here for them,” she said, adding that she noticed that a friend’s choice often influences what a child will choose. “It’s very important to encourage kids to learn by reading.”
With their books in hand, students in Gelleri’s class returned to their classroom. Then a group of second-graders in Emily Heinemann’s class hurried out of the school, and the “book excitement” began anew.
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