A love of literacy filled the Lake Ronkonkoma air on Friday, evening, May 12.
At Sachem North High School, and in conjunction with the American Federation of Teachers, the Sachem Central Teacher Association (SCTA) handed out 25,000 books to K-12 students of the district in a successful effort to make reading fun again.
“Few days in my government service or education career can match today,” said Assemblyman Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) (Pictured top right at podium). “Thank you to our fantastic teachers and staff at Sachem for everything you do for our kids!”
Needless to say, the day was more than made for those partaking in the mad dash to make sure they could collect some scintillating summer reading material inside Sachem North High School’s auxiliary gymnasium. By the time they made it outside, they could then bask in the pure and unadulterated glory of experiencing the likes of arguably the longest ice cream truck line in Long Island history. What’s more: children could do so off the backs of a free raffle ticket voucher. An $8 strawberry milkshake never tasted so good.
It was a day that kept on giving, but the community players responsible for the ‘Reading Opens the World’-certified carnival are vehement in assigning the credit to the turnout of the district— from the students who showed up, to the 50 volunteers who did as well.
“Basically, we got a grant from the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) — the national teachers union… they supplied us with the books, and were nice enough to help out as well,” said Jon Weston, of Huntington, an English teacher in the Sachem school district. “And we wanted a carnival theme, through the partnerships, the community, the PTA, the school district as well, we helped get the word out. It’s K-12, a lot of Disney books, a lot of graphic novels and Marvel as well.”
“They put on an amazing event. They’re wonderful partners in the community. The turnout was amazing. And we really appreciate everything they’ve done for us,” said Annie Davis, a mother of a junior in the district.
Optically, the event ran completely counter to anything we could have expected a few years back — when the pandemic indefinitely curtailed large gatherings of all shapes and forms, with masks and keeping a distance from one another becoming the new mold.
If Friday’s book fair extravaganza was any indication, life has returned to normal— at least on the homefront.
“I think that’s what makes everybody so happy,” Davis shared “It’s why I’m so excited standing here, because we get to say hi to everyone… it’s just a pleasure to be a PTA member supporting the SCTA and the teachers that do so much for our community.”
At the event, Leslie Getzinger, of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Messenger: “We do about 25 of these large- scale events every year… this is top 5.”
“I was impressed, driving up from Washington, D.C,” Getzinger added. “I didn’t even try to get in the lot [because it was completely full]. I think it’s very great when you find the carnival games, the DJ, the Sachem Library, the ice cream… The whole point is, we’re trying to spread the joy of reading. We’re not trying to make it a bore… we’re trying to make it a part of the family experience.”
Marissa Pizza, executive director of the Farmingville Residents Association (pictured left with Assemblyman Doug Smith), was also on-hand, her civic association having teamed up with Sachem for the Clothing Drive portion of the Sachem Book Fair. She called the mission and its subsequent execution “absolutely fantastic!”
“Honestly, the whole purpose is to really just spread a love of literacy for our kids. And the community responded, which is unbelievable,” said Phil Barbera, an Earth Science teacher at Sachem North and also the President of the Sachem Teachers’ Union.
As for the few leftover books? Getzinger said there’s precedent for the good cause to keep on spreading in a number of equally noble ways.
“We had an event in Albany two weekends ago where we did a wellness festival. They had maybe about 2,000 books left over. The mayor of Albany took the books and used them for homeless shelters, food pantries… and other places donated to early childhood centers.”
Reading never seemed so easy, with infectious energy abound that’s welcomingly reverberated into this week.Here’s to a summer, nay, a lifetime’s worth of a shared sentiment that we here at The Messenger can certainly cosign and get behind: reading is not dead!