By Pat Tomlinson – The Norwalk Hour
NORWALK — It may not be Christmas, but this week Norwalk Public School students of all ages will receive a gift they will not soon forget as the district distributes thousands of free books.
Students of the district’s 12 elementary schools and four middle schools will have their choice of 40,000 free books as a part of a new partnership with First Book, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing children with free, new books, geared toward inspiring a love of reading.
“We want our students to have an edge in literacy. We know the importance of reading, and we want to contribute to our community and this is a great way to do that for free for students. You just can’t beat that,” Federation President Beverly Dixon said.
On Saturday afternoon, Ponus students had the first opportunity to peruse the vast selection of books.
As kids pored over the many different titles on display, Dixon couldn’t help but smile. After more than a year of preparation, she was not only glad to witness the moment she had been working toward but, more importantly, she knew that the event granted some kids the opportunity to get their hands on books they’d been yearning after.
Ponus student Steven Andrade had bugged his mother for weeks over the latest book in his favorite book series, “The Heroes of Olympus,” by author Rick Riordan.
The sixth-grader had raced through the first four books in the series over the past year, and he was anxious to get cracking on the series’ final installment. Unfortunately, Andrade couldn’t find the book at the school’s library and his mother just hadn’t been able to pick it up.
When Andrade entered the Ponus gym on Saturday, his mother said his eyes lit up immediately as he ran to the nearest table, which held the books by his favorite author.
“We walked in and I heard him yell ‘Oh my god, this is the book I wanted!’ He was just so excited, and now he finally has his book,” said Rosa Andrade.
Another Ponus student, Liliana Sosnowski, used the event as an opportunity to finally procure a series of books that she had long contemplated starting.
The seventh-grader said she likes fantasy books, and she had been waiting to start a series centered around a world where mermaids rule the seas. Thanks to the book giveaway, the self-proclaimed avid reader will pass the next few months with a new book series to dig into.
“Not a lot of kids can actually go out and get new books, so this an opportunity for them to come and read more outside of reading classes. I really think that this is good for most kids,” said Sosnowski.
The Norwalk Federation of Educational Personnel, a union that represents school secretaries, library assistants, paraprofessionals and more, paired up with First Book to make the giveaway possible.
Over the next week, Dixon said that the 15 other elementary and middle schools will give students a chance to get about three books each. As for the future of the partnership with First Book, Dixon said that she can only hope it continues.
“This has been a great opportunity for our district,” she said.