PLATTSBURGH â The North Country has been infused with a plethora of new reading material, thanks, in part, to two Momot Elementary School teachers.Â
Beth OâNeil andÂ Kari Herkalo recently secured a truckload of books for the area through the nonprofit organization First Book, which serves theÂ United States and Canada.
âItâs a program that provides books to communities in need,â saidÂ OâNeil, who teaches third grade.Â
The educators first learned of the programÂ at a Local Action Project Conference in Saratoga and later signed up to participate.Â
Anyone employed at a Title 1 school or working with children in need, such as at a library, pediatrician’s office or day-care provider,Â can sign up for the program, which allows them to purchase books online at little cost.Â
âYou can buy books for, like, $1,”Â OâNeil said. “Sometimes, you just have to pay for shipping.âÂ
In addition, if she andÂ Herkalo had been able to sign up 2,000 individuals from qualifying organizations in the region by Nov. 1, 2015, the North Country would have received up to 50,000 free books.Â
Though the teachers were unable to meet the signature quota this time around, the Albany area achieved the goal and offered to share its books.Â
âWe ended up coming back with 15,000 or 20,000 books,âÂ OâNeil said, withÂ options for all ages, from birth to adult.Â
âTheyâre very expensive books, and theyâre all in great condition,”Â OâNeil said. “Theyâre all brand new.”Â
X-Plo/E-Z Sto Inc. is storing them by the pallet load for free for the year, while the women work to sort and distribute them to area organizations that signed up.Â
âThe big thing is obtaining signatures,”Â OâNeil said. “If we get signatures from the people that work in their organization, we can give them books.”
While parents can’t sign up for the program unless they work with children in need, they can receive books from the participating organizations.Â
The teachers, for example, have been distributing them at local events, the University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Wellness & Fitness Center and once a month through the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity’s Backpack Program. Â
In addition, the free books have been available to families at Momot Elementary’sÂ parent-teacher conferences.Â
âAll the parents who were coming into the school with their families, they could stop and look and select books that they thought were appropriate,”Â said Momot ElementaryÂ Assistant Principal Susan Wilson.
“It was a great opportunity for parents and students to make book selections and book choices together.”
âI think itâs also a way for teachers to positively interact with the families,â addedÂ OâNeil.Â
HOMES WITHOUT BOOKS
O’Neil feels there’s a need in the community for books and has noticed kids struggling to read.Â
“With Common Core, the standards are so high that we need to have books available for our kids, especially the families that donât have them,” she said.
“And thereâs a large number of families that donât have books at home.â
âThe ultimate goal is to put a book in every childâs hand,” addedÂ Herkalo, who provides Academic Intervention Services in math and reading to second-grade students.Â
The educators hope to distribute more of the reading material to qualifying organizations that are willing to sign up for First Book.Â
âI just think itâs a great program, and if people will reach out to us, we will give them whatever they need,âÂ OâNeil said.
âI would love to give books out.âÂ
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For additional information about First Book, including how to receive free reading material to be distributed to children in need, contact Beth O’Neil at 420-3219 or email@example.com.Â