June 20, 2019

Rochester-area unions ramp up First Book giveaways to inspire summer reading

Author: Liza Frenette
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Caption: Webster Teachers Association members will join union president Christopher Wojtas (pictured here with his children) to hand out free books at the community's summer kickoff bash.

This is the kind of community outreach that will have a long shelf life: giving books to children.

A truckload of 42,000 books from First Book Inc. and NYSUT has been delivered to western New York, where union members put books in the hands of students and will continue to give them away all summer to children and families at festivals, galas, street fairs, and canal days.

Near Rochester, Webster Teachers Association members will be handing out books at the annual Webster summer kickoff bash at the local recreation center this Saturday.

The teachers association took delivery of 16,000 books during spring and delivered hundreds of them to each building with the help of teachers, administrators, board members and School-Related Professionals.

WTA union members also took boxes of books to the Golisano’s Children Hospital in Rochester to brighten the spirits of sick and terminally ill children, said President Christopher Wojtas.

At a much-heralded book giveaway in Fairport, 5,000 books were handed out to students and families during Fairport Canal Days by the Fairport Educators Association and Monroe BOCES United Professionals, union leader Andy Jordan said.

“It was a huge success,” said Jordan, co-president of the Monroe BOCES UP. “We received personal thanks from the mayor and village board, and one board member told us ‘this is the best thing to ever happen to canal days.’ There were lots of happy smiles.”

It was a big bump from the 1,500 books members gave out last year. This year’s stock of 10,000 new books was culled from First Book and donations from members and retirees, and will be shared throughout the summer at different community events by volunteer educators from both unions.

“We are more than just an association of educators, we are members of our community who never miss an opportunity to teach and help families realize the very best for their children,” FEA President Sue Casement said.

New York State United Teachers works with First Book Inc., a non-profit organization in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers, to provide books at low-to-no cost to New York schools and programs serving low-income families and children in need.

“Providing for our students in need is a social justice union value,” said Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer. “We’re so proud of the efforts of our members to make sure every child has a book for summer reading and book to call their own.”

In neighboring Greece, First Book is making its first appearance. The 1,100-member TA serves students in multiple Title I schools, qualifying them for the contemporary and classic titles provided by First Book. GTA president Brian Ebertz and Vice President Allen Firlit said they are excited about plans to distribute the book titles to students through open houses, ice cream socials, on buses, and at events held for students transitioning to their next level of school.

They have paired with local firefighter and police unions to create a summer reading kickoff event that will be held at a local Barnes & Noble. The TA will also be restocking school libraries with some of the titles.

The local leaders said union members would also be creating book bags for new school registrants.

“Our excitement to get additional books into the hands of our students cannot be understated,” the pair said. “Whenever a student opens a new book a new world opens in their mind.”

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