Book fair big for school and community |

Book fair big for school and community

Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

Jeremy Ranch Elementary School hosts the biggest book fair in the state. But this year’s spring fair wasn’t just about selling books to help support the school. It was also about raising money through donations from kids, parents and teachers, in order to buy books for Holy Cross Ministries’ homework club.

And they donated with page-turning results.

"I couldn’t believe the percentage of kids who came through the line and dropped their own money into the bucket," Lyn Eckels, book fair chair, said. "It’s just so great seeing kids helping other kids."

She added that what was even more touching was to see kids whom she knew didn’t have much money, but were still donating their change to the homework club. Fourth-grader Sandra Sanchez is just one example of this. Eckels said whenever Sanchez came into the book fair, she donated a little something, even though she, herself, attends homework club.

Sanchez said she loved the book fair’s cool posters and fuzzy pens. She added that she donated money because, "then the people that don’t have books and don’t have the money to buy books could have them."

Fifth-grader Ashlynn Johnson also donated money to the homework club. "I really wanted to help them get books, so that they could find out about the adventures they can have when they read let them get lost in the stories," she said. "Give them a chance to find out what books are really about."

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Book fair co-chair, Viki Sime said not only were kids donating what little money they had, but they were also persuading their parents to donate money while they perused the fair with them after school. Sime said they received big individual contributions of up to $50 from parents.

Donating money for books during the fair began three years ago as part of Scholastic’s "One for Books" program. For the first two years, monies raised went to Jeremy Ranch’s own English Language Learners homework program.

"We’ve always wanted to support a local program, but nothing connected properly until this," Eckels said. "It used to only benefit our kids, but now it can benefit so many more."

Eckels said she chose Holy Cross’ homework club because her STAR tutor student, Jeremy Ranch fifth-grader Rodolfo Guzman, had suggested it. Guzman participates in the club every day after school Monday through Thursday. "I’ve seen such a difference in him," Eckels said.

Guzman said he just thought some kids needed a treat. "At homework club, sometimes we don’t have enough supplies, and when some kids don’t have homework to do, they read books," he added.

Third-grader Sophia Anderson said it wouldn’t be fair if the club didn’t have enough books. "They need to learn just the same as us," she said. "Books help you figure out things."

Sime was instrumental in getting the word out about donating, Eckels said. Sime sent out e-mails through the school system, which reaches about 370 families. She also trained the cashiers to ask customers if they’d like to donate, and she put a reminder on the morning announcements.

All the effort paid off. The school raised $333.18, which is more than the sum of the first two years combined. "It’s phenomenal," Eckels said, "especially when you consider the size of our school." Eckels continued that she attributes part of their success just to the overall giving mentality of the Park City community.

Tim Jackson, program coordinator for the homework club, said the timing for the donation couldn’t have been better. A parent volunteer from the fair called Jackson with the offer at the same time that he and a reading specialist from Parley’s Park Elementary School, who volunteers with the after-school program, were in the midst of trying to figure out ways to get more books.

"The focal point of this program is to help improve these kids’ reading abilities," Jackson said. "It’s things like this that enable us to continue to expand and develop the program to offer more services."

About 60 ELL students from Jeremy Ranch and Parley’s Park participate in the homework club. The kids are transported from their schools to St. Mary’s Church, where the program is run, and then are taken home. They get a snack, work on homework and/or read in the first half, and then participate in some form of fun dancing, hiking, playing games for the second half.

"The kids have been in school all day, but they’re still really good about spending the time to read and do homework," Jackson said. He added that the club also has a reward system for those students that do extra reading.

Sime said Holy Cross has picked out 51 books from the fair so far and there’s still plenty of money leftover for them to pick out more.

The fair’s theme was "Reading Road Trip." The school held contests for students, hosted a "Look n’ Lunch" program for parents and kids, as well as filled book wish lists for teachers.

Eckels said once again, the book fair was a success. "A tremendous number of books go into the hands of students and into the classrooms," she said.

And now, many more books are also going to the kids of Holy Cross Ministries’ homework club.