Gift-A-Book campaign collects nearly 100 books for Newcastle library

November 14, 2011

By Christina Lords

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UPDATED — 11:40 a.m. Nov. 16, 2011

Although Newcastle Elementary School librarian Laura Berry has come in contact with thousands of book over her lifetime, she distinctly remembers sitting down and reading “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” as a small child.

Thanks to the school’s annual Gift-A-Book campaign, which allows children and parents to select books to donate to the school’s library, Newcastle will be able to add the 60-year-old story to its growing collection.

“It’s still a great story, and it’s nice to have a library bound edition of it,” she said. “One of our first-graders chose that. He and his family donated three wonderful books.”

About 80 books have already been donated for students to use for years to come, Berry said.

And with continued cutbacks handed down from the Washington Legislature, those contributions will mean all the difference to librarians like Berry.

Curriculum funding for new materials for the library has dwindled over the last several years, going from $14 per student to $7 per student to $3.50 per student, she said. The Issaquah School District has cut that support to zero dollars in the last two years due to the cutbacks.

Parents have stepped up in a big way through the school’s campaign to make sure children have the books they need to succeed, Berry said.

“Our community is really supportive, and we’re really lucky we have such a strong program that parents and kids want to donate to,” she said. “Not every school in every school district has that luxury that we do.”

There have been 97* hardcover, library-bound books donated through the campaign so far. Parents can donate to the project until Nov. 23.

The other major fundraiser that provides new materials for the library is the school’s PTSA-sponsored book fair. Newcastle’s fall scholastic book fair from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 in the school cafeteria on the stage area.

About 50 percent of the sales from the fair benefit the library, going toward more book purchases in the future. An online book fair can be accessed Nov. 18 through Dec. 8 at http://bookfairs.scholastic.com/bookfairs/cptoolkit/publish/newcastlelions.

Parents contribute to the Gift-A-Book campaign in two ways. Some parents donate a dollar amount to go toward books on the librarian’s choice list or they can select a specific book from a wish list from the school library’s website.

If the book a student wants for the library isn’t on the list, students can request other titles and special orders are made.

Students can chose anything that interests them — from nonfiction Zoobooks about wildlife to mystery books to popular children’s series.

Children are able to choose books that will benefit the library in perpetuity, Berry said.

“The thing that’s really nice about Gift-A-Book is that it’s something that they can pick so they know they’ll have books they’re interested in,” she said. “You get a nice variety of books that are timely, current and desired. The kids want to read those books.”

Andrew Frederick, 7, a Newcastle Elementary first grader said he selected “Lego’s Star Wars Character Encyclopedia” because he has seen all of the movies and wanted to share more about Star Wars with other students.

“I have a friend, and he likes Legos and Star Wars, too,” he said.

His sister, Claire Frederick, 10, chose to select “The Son of Neptune,” the second of five books in Rick Riordan’s fantasy series “The Heroes of Olympus.”

She said she loves reading chapter books about fairies and magical creatures. The series, which includes characters in Roman and Greek mythology, is highly popular among students right now, Berry said.

Students are recognized in a Gift-A-Book display outside the library area and get to sign their name on a personalized bookplate inside their selected book.

Berry said she’ll continue to contact her state legislators to explain how budget cuts are affecting public schools, but until funding is restored, she said she’s grateful for community support for the school.

“It really does bring so much to the school when parents are involved,” she said. “They’re recognizing we need more books in our library that kids want to have. There’s something special about putting your name in a book and picking it out and you can always come back and look at it and say, ‘that’s me.’”

* This story contains updated information.

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