First Book event deemed success by many

By Nick Blank
Posted 10/24/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Children sifted through free books stacked chest-high Saturday at Green Cove Springs Junior High, after standing in a line that stretched around school in 80-degree …

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First Book event deemed success by many


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Children sifted through free books stacked chest-high Saturday at Green Cove Springs Junior High, after standing in a line that stretched around school in 80-degree heat.

The event distributed more than 40,000 books – 33,222 pounds – to students via Clay County Education Association’s partnership with Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit First Book and the American Federation for Teachers for the second year in a row.

Megan and Greg Roach brought their four children to the event. As their son Landon, a Plantation Oaks fifth grader, was nearing the 10-book limit. Megan Roach said the selection of books was great.

“I think it’s awesome for the kids and the community,” she said. “Something we talked about before we came was, ‘Are they going to be good books?’ But they have tons of chapter books for the older kids.”

Monique Summers brought her three children. Oakleaf Junior High eighth-grader Keilan Summers said he will read anything by Rick Riordan, author of the modern Greek-mythology fantasy series, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” Kennedi Summers, a Plantation Oaks first grader, held up various books about superheroes and Eric Carle’s 1997 book, “From Head to Toe.”

“(The event) teaches kids that learning is fun,” Monique Summers said. “The kids get to pick out whatever they want to pick out, and it encourages them to read, which is amazing.”

Volunteers hovered around the line and carried water bottles on wagons. Waiting in line with an umbrella over her one-year-old son, Maren Garner stood with her daughters Chloe, an eighth grader at Lake Asbury Junior High, and Rachel, enrolled in pre-kindergarten. Chloe Garner said Harry Potter was her favorite book series and the opportunity for free books was exciting.

“My kids love to read,” Maren Garner said. “We thought free books would be a great opportunity.”

This year, children were limited to 10 books and needed to be accompanied by a parent. CCEA President Renna Lee Paiva credited a cadre of 50 people with organizing the book giveaway all-day Friday. The books came unsorted in the truck, Paiva said with an exasperated laugh.

“The quality of the books was better even [though they came unsorted], but we would get 200 of the same kind [last year],” Paiva said. “So now we had to buy three more tarps because the variety is so good, but it took a long time to set it up.”

Clay County School District Superintendent Addison Davis praised Paiva’s vision for securing the event for the second year running.

“For her to bring this initiative for a second time is really important to us. Not many counties throughout the state have that availability to bring it here,” Davis said. “Learning takes place at home. If we can get parents and family members, who are the most important educators, an opportunity to give resources to our kids, it will help them inside the classrooms.”

E.J. Skippers, a Coppergate Elementary third grader, said his favorite books were Jeff Kinney’s, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.

“I like how he made books about his life,” Skippers said.

His father Ezra Skippers, who heard about the event online, said it is important to read to children early and create good habits.

“It’s very important for the kids so they can learn. It’s awesome there’s 40,000 books to give away to the families,” Ezra Skippers said. “When you’re at home, you need to instill things like reading and similar stuff like that because when they’re at school they might not have a lot of time for it.”


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