Team First Book New Hanover County
It’s the moment that a child with no books in their home excitedly picks one out, realizes it’s theirs to keep, and declares this book fair day the best day ever, that makes it all worth it for the volunteers with Team First Book of New Hanover County.
The group organizes free book fairs for Pre-K through second graders at New Hanover County schools serving low-income communities.
“It’s really an equal opportunity literacy program,” said co-chair Diane Blaschak. “We provide a book fair experience to our students at no cost but with all the benefits.”
A First Book Fair looks, to kids, just like a Scholastic one. They enter the school library or cafeteria and find new, quality books about sports and dinosaurs, or featuring Peppa Pig or Fly Guy, sprawled out enticingly on tables.
With their teachers they get to choose one or two books to bring home, and pre-Covid, they would get special reading time with a First Book volunteer before heading back to class.
While schools offer lots of good options through their libraries, there is something powerful about becoming someone who owns a book, Blaschak said. It becomes part of that child’s identity.
“They can share it with their siblings, or read with their families, their siblings, their grandparents,” she said. “Then that brings reading into the home and it makes it more permanent than a library book you have to return.”
First Book chooses more than a dozen elementary schools and seven Pre-K programs to serve each year, based on income of the families and reading proficiency of students.
While they are part of a nationwide First Book buying network, they do all of their fundraising here and every dollar raised stays in the New Hanover County School district.
The group works to include books that are dual-language and showcase diverse characters and life experiences.
“We want books in their hands that serve as both windows and mirrors. Windows so they can see beyond their environment to a broader world, and mirrors that reflect themselves,” Blaschak said.
They are fundraising now for the book fairs they hope to host before winter break.
“Many students have not owned a book before,” she said. “Now they do, it’s something just for them, and it's because there’s people in the community that care that much about them and want to share the joy of reading.”
To learn more about Team First Book New Hanover County or to make a donation to support this year’s book fairs, visit www.firstbook.org/newhanover.