Laura Bermes, a teacher at West Seattle Elementary School, had a third grader in class who was disruptive.
His mother told Bermes he had been through several schools because they were homeless and she had fled a gang life. He had to walk a mile to school through a neighborhood he didn’t know.
“He was sitting in class, not engaged at all. He wouldn’t take out his notebook,” said Bermes. “He was frustrated and hurt.”
Then Bermes discovered the boy liked dragons. So she pulled out three books she’d found at the Friends of the Library book sale. “It was the first time I saw him smile since he started school,” said Bermes. “His eyes lit up. I told him to pick a book. He did and questioned me, ‘Is this really mine?’ This book was magic.” Bermes said this is just one example of the power of the Friends book sale, where teachers are given vouchers to buy books for their classrooms. “Imagine how powerful a book can be. It says to a student, you are special, I care about you. And it encourages them to read.”
Across the city, teachers say books are elixirs, a glue that unites a class.
Danielle Woods, at Leschi Elementary, said the vouchers meant almost 100 new books for her students, many who are on reduced lunches.
“I was able to get beautiful hard back books that are culturally sensitive and reflect the beautiful faces in my classroom,” Woods said. One of her favorites is Clancy, the Courageous Cow, a book about celebrating the differences in one another. She also said she was able to start a collection of books on CD, because it’s so important for students to hear books read aloud and many didn’t have anyone at home who would read to them.
“I am so thankful for the opportunity to add these books to our classroom library,” Woods said. “My students this year, and for years to come, will cherish these books.”
Debra Sund at Northgate Elementary Head Start, said she used every cent of her book vouchers and bought books for her classroom that wouldn’t be there without the voucher program.
She created a “book house” in her classroom, stocked with books. “This is a home to book sale classics I purchased and I made it a literacy center and cozy with seating and book nooks,” she said. “One of my goals is to share the love and apprediation of books.” A teacher for 17 years, she said her old students often return for a visit and they share their love of books.
“If I had a dollar for every child who enjoyed “Abiyoyo: or “Big Pumpkin” I would be very wealthy. Many of the children I serve are in unstable and sometime abusive households and that time away lost in a book can be the humanity that is needed for survival.”
Erin Armstrong, a teacher at South Shore School, said she was talking to one of her science students who was struggling with reading. She asked him if he wanted help finding books to read so they want to the back of the classroom and she pulled out “The Giver.” The boy eagerly checked it out and Armstrong was certain he couldn’t wait to get home and start reading.“I am thrilled that I have some amazing resources to offer and I cannot thank you enough for such a generous gift to our classroom,” said Armstrong. “These resources make an incredible difference in helping our students to reach their goals and become life-long readers.”