Norwalk schools and unions partner to distribute 40,000 books to kids

NORWALK – Students and their families can start building their own home library next month at The Carousel of Reading event which will offer 40,000 brand new books for children across all age groups.

Norwalk Public Schools, in collaboration with employee unions, has partnered with the international nonprofit First Book to provide children with free books including new releases and best sellers. Norwalk High School will host the event on May 21 from 11 am to 3 pm

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get books into the hands of students,” said Willette Payton, the district’s coordinator of digital learning and a representative with the Norwalk Association of School Administrators. “As a former library media specialist, the opportunity to provide books to children, whether they’re new or gently used, is always beneficial.”

Mary Yordon, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, added: “When given a book to own, it sends a whole different message. It says you’re trusted… It’s a gift of ownerships and trust. ”

The employee unions first collaborated to bring the First Book event to Norwalk in 2017. At that time, the books were split between the individual schools for distribution to the students. After a five-year hiatus, partly due to the pandemic, the event this year hopes to bring the community together.

“We can put books in kids’ hands and help further them along, give them something that they can look forward to,” said Reggie Stokes, vice president of the Norwalk Federation of Education Personnel. “Giving away free books is an opportunity we can not pass up.”

Superintendent Alexandra Estrella stressed the importance of helping students and their families build a home library, an opportunity not available to all children in the district.

“This event allows them to start building a home library with books they can call their own and treasure. It opens the door to allow kids to have actual books at home, ”she said.

Estrella discussed bringing back the event with the union leaders this year and offered to join forces to organize it. Each side acknowledged they do not always see eye to eye on everything, but Payton said overall, Estrella has pushed for equity access and inclusion across the district and knows that books and libraries are an equalizer.

“The really big message is this project is too big for one small group,” Yordon said. “As far as I can tell, we’re all delighted to do something very impactful.”

The organizers hope to welcome families outside the school with a DJ, food trucks and fun activities before they make their way inside the gym where books will be arranged by age. Professional storytellers also will present their work in the auditorium throughout the afternoon. Each school will have a table set up to show their school spirit.

“One of the things that really excites me is our students are going to be surrounded by lots of books which can help build their vocabulary and their reading comprehension and expand their horizons,” Estrella said. “I can not wait to see their eyes when they come into that space as they collect their books. ”

The Carousel of Reading will also present one of the first opportunities in several years for Norwalk older students to earn service hours and participate in civic engagement. Students from Norwalk High School, Brien McMahon High School and the middle schools will help community volunteers to sort books and setup for the event as well as break it down.

For more information about volunteering, contact Audra Good at [email protected] To sign up, visit the website and search for the event using Good’s email address.

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