Pequot Library provides “Books for Teachers” in underserved school communities

Pequot Library’s Summer Book Sale offers a program linking library book sales with classrooms in need. The Renée B. Fisher Foundation’s Books for Teachers program started with a simple idea — provide an abundance of books of all types and subjects to children whose access to books may be limited.

The Renée B. Fisher Foundation is a nonprofit, philanthropic organization located in Greens Farms. Pequot Library’s program was the flagship program, serving Bridgeport and New Haven’s underserved school communities. The Books for Teachers program has now grown to nationwide proportions.

“Thank you for the $100 voucher,” said Mary H. Scruggs, a special education teachers at Dunbar School in Bridgeport. “I looked for books that I already had and bought multiple copies of them so I could do more small group instruction with my students.”

Nicholas Grasso, a fourth grade teacher at Amistad Academy Elementary School in New Haven, obtained nearly 50 books for his classroom.

“I have an incoming class of very mixed ability,” he said. “I was able to get a broad range of books that my students will be able to read, I now have material I need to reach my goal. I was amazed at what a great resource these books will be. Thank you for making this all possible.”

Renée B. Fisher Foundation trustee Shelley Fisher Fishkin, grew up in Westport and worked as a book sale volunteer at Pequot Library.

“I believe in the value of physical books,” said Fishkin, who recognized what she was exposed to at the book sale. “It was an eye-opening experience. Sometimes first editions of Mark Twain would surface and I noticed the quality of the illustrations.”

However it was Fishkin’s son, Bobby Fishkin, who had the initial Books for Teachers idea. He and Lori Hashizume designed the program, which is funded by The Renée B. Fisher Foundation and developed and implemented by Hashizume over its first three years.

“As a math teacher I purchased math related books,” said Maureen D. Lacossiere, a first grade math teacher at Bridgeport Academy Elementary. “I’m trying to infuse as much literacy in math as possible. Thank you so much for this grant. It helps me create a more robust selection for the students.”

Jonnie Garcia, a teacher at Ross Woodward Classical Studies Magnet School in Bridgeport replaced books that were worn and bought books for her new grade level.

“The selection is the best and the prices still allow me to get many selections,” she said.

In its first year, the Books for Teachers program, provided vouchers to 13 public school teachers from the largest city in the state of Connecticut. Teachers given vouchers worth $200 to buy books at the book sale. This year, 256 teachers from 50 schools will benefit from the program.

“It’s meant so much for so many teachers,” Fishkin said. “The Books for Teachers program has spread the joy of reading to other communities in need.”

The book sale runs July 26 through 30, and will feature more than 140,000  books, plus CDs, DVDs and records,. Admission is free and all sale proceeds benefit Pequot Library. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted.

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