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White Plains Teachers’ Association Distributes 40K Free Books at Fair

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Thousands of books arrived at Eastview Middle School Saturday for an all-day literacy fair aimed to promote reading for White Plains students and their families. 

The outdoor event, hosted by the White Plains Teachers’ Association (WPTA), featured free books for students of all ages — including English, Spanish and bilingual titles — that were provided through a partnership between the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and educational nonprofit First Book.

Complete with live musical performances, an ice cream truck, a wellness tent and a guest reading by Newbury Honor-winning young adult author Thanhhà Lai, the literacy fair was the latest event of the AFT’s “Reading Opens the World” initiative.

WPTA President Kara McCormick-Lyons, who organized the literacy fair, emphasized that books open new worlds for children — feeding both their imaginations and academic growth.

“Reading is foundational to instilling a lifelong love of learning and curiosity in our students that they need to become the next generation of leaders,” McCormick-Lyons said. “We’re thrilled to team up with our White Plains Public Schools community to promote literacy and wellness for every family and create learners for life.” 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca said the success of Saturday’s event was the result of the school district, WPTA, PTA Council and community partners including CSEA, Trinity Methodist Church, White Plains Youth Bureau, El Centro Hispano and the White Plains Public Library coming together. 

“We’re excited that so many people came out today to enjoy and build their home libraries,” Ricca said. “There is nothing more important than reading together and to our children. I’m so happy we were able to host it.”

In 2021, the AFT launched its “Reading Opens the World” campaign with the goal of distributing one million free books nationwide to students’ and families’ home libraries, educators’ and school staff’s classroom collections and afterschool and community programs. By the end of the month, the AFT will have distributed 300,000 books. 

“With our partner First Book, we provided 40,000 books [to White Plains] that will be given out today and throughout the summer by nonprofits and faith-based organizations to infuse the community with books so that reading is a priority for families and kids,” Leslie Getzinger, of the AFT, said.

AFT President Randi Weingarten highlighted that “Reading Opens the World” is not only a series of free book giveaways but also a long-term investment in working with parents, caregivers, teachers and support staff as they help encourage students’ reading habits.

A First Book poll found that 87 percent of educators reported that children’s interest in reading increased after they received free books at a literacy fair like the one in White Plains. Additionally, 88 percent said providing free books helped close the achievement gap for the children they serve. 

“Reading is key to life, to joy, to our very existence,” Weingarten said. “Reading opens possibilities and makes dreams more of a reality. It creates confidence. But reading is hard without books. That’s why the AFT launched the ‘Reading Opens the World’ campaign — to first and foremost give children and young people free books to read, love and keep, and to open their world.”

Joshua Carlson, manager of youth services at the White Plains Public Library, said the library was excited to take part in the event at Eastview.

“Childhood literacy is so critical to the growth of kids as scholars and people, and whether they’re picking up free books from an event like this or visiting their local library, we’re thrilled to help White Plains children grow their love of reading,” Carlson said.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer underscored that it’s education that helps all students, including those in White Plains, find success. 

“When you have a reading fair like this, you’re really emphasizing to kids how important reading is,” Latimer said.

White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, as well as elected officials from city and state government, was also in attendance at the event.

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