Webster Elementary School will celebrate its Annual Book Fair next week. The yearly event that reveres all things literary has added weight this year, honoring Jonah Stern, a Webster fifth-grader who lost his valiant battle with cancer last May.
The book fair has evolved into a family-friendly, week-long affair, with special appearances by favorite children’s literature characters, movie nights, bookish breakfasts and special prize giveaways. At the end of the week, Webster hopes to see a re-stocked library, satisfied teacher wish lists and children’s noses buried in pages.
Not that this is something easy to achieve. Teri Carcano, Webster mom of third-grader Vince, said, “It takes more than 40 parent, teacher and student volunteers to pull off a successful book fair. And our extra events are always [thanks to] our generous families, like the Books and Bagels breakfast, hosted by the Cotsen family.”
Carcano has been helping with the fair for five years. “This is a situation where everybody wins,” Carcano said. “Our librarian, Peri Monte, gets her shelves restocked, parents find great gift ideas and kids get the books they want.”
Webster also takes advantage of the opportunity to create a multi-day event for its students. Monday offers free prizes to book purchasers if they know the “secret word” selected and disseminated by Principal Samarge- Powell by robo-call. Tuesday has an evening shopping opportunity that plops down students in front of a movie while parents can shop at leisure. Wednesday serves Books and Breakfast to enjoy while browsing and students enjoy a late start to the school day (9 a.m.). Thursday offers a bookmark giveaway with each purchase of a title.
Friday has a Last Chance Coffee during the final hours of the Book Fair before they call out the raffle winners for the week. The library will be open late on Tuesday and Friday evenings for relaxed browsing. With every purchase comes a numbered bracelet that enters the book purchaser into a raffle for books, posters and more. There is even a rumor that Clifford, the beloved Big Red Dog, will be on hand to greet students arriving to school in the mornings.
The event is run by Scholastic, the publisher that has been providing age-appropriate literary resources to American students for more than 90 years. The organization sets up kiosks in the school library, hauls in supplies of the latest titles and returns up to half of the net proceeds to Webster Elementary, which go to the Parent/Teacher Association general fund.
In the past, local celebrities have dropped in to share the fun and read to students. A couple of years ago, Dick Van Dyke showed up to read “Mr. Finnegan’s Giving Chest,” about a character based on himself, and a version of the “The Three Little Pigs” (as told by the wolf).
But this year, the Book Fair will benefit more than the reading aspirations of Webster’s students. Books purchased and donated in Jonah Stern’s name will be given to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where Stern received treatment and medical support during his illness.
“Webster had a very successful Toy Drive to benefit Children’s Hospital last May, just after Jonah’s passing,” Jenny Fritz, Webster mom of fourth-grader Daisy and volunteer for the book fair, said. “During his stay at the hospital, Jonah would get toys left on his bed. It was his wish that every child who had to stay at the hospital would get a toy also. We decided to have a book drive for Jonah as well. So parents can purchase titles that will go directly to Children’s Hospital in Jonah’s name.”
And if parents wonder how they will know what book titles might be desired by students or the library, no need to worry. Librarian Monte, teachers and students have compiled a helpful “wish list” for books they personally would like to see show up on Webster shelves, all centrally located on display in the hallways and in, naturally, a card catalogue in the library.
The Webster Elementary Annual Book Fair takes place Nov. 17- 21 in the school library.