Goodwill to give teachers 35,000 free books

Local teachers have an outlet where a ‘wild rumpus’ will start

(Left) Lori Forte Harnick, president/CEO of Goodwill, (center) Josh Garcia, Deputy Superintendent for Tacoma Public Schools and (right) parent Jennifer Kupka are all prepared for the book giveaway on Sat., Aug. 26th. Photo by Tami Jackson.

As many as 1,200 elementary and middle school teachers, each who are responsible for dozens of school boys and girls, will expectedly bump elbows when they pick through bins of free children’s books at one of three area Goodwill Outlet stores on Saturday, Aug. 26. That’s when Goodwill will be donating 35,000 books to local teachers on a first-come first-served basis. The free-for-all begins at 9 a.m. and educators can take as many as 30 books back to each individual classroom.

In the words of Marice Sendak in “Where the Wild Things Are” – “Let the wild rumpus start!”

According to George White, public relations and communications director for Goodwill of the Olympics & Rainier Region, “The giveaway will last until the books run out and last year the books were gone at around noon.”

Participating educators must present their school identification to gain access to all those age-appropriate books, which will include learning picture books, chapter books, and teen and young adult book series. The three participating stores include Tacoma’s Goodwill Outlet, 3120 S. Pine St.; Olympia’s Goodwill Outlet, 4014 Martin Way E. and Kent’s Goodwill Outlet, 315 Washington Ave. S.

The vision behind the book donation effort began with parent Jennifer Kupka, who is also president of the Columbia Junior High Boosters Program in Fife. “The schools had a great need, Goodwill received adequate amounts of donations in books and I just put two and two together and thought, hey, can we do this for the community?”

In addition to the wagon-load of books that each teacher can stack on their classroom shelves for keeps, Goodwill will also be giving away coupons that educators can award to individual students so they can shop at a more traditional Goodwill store and get yet another book for free. According to Kupka, the teachers can use those coupons for creating an incentive program or give a student an award.

“This is such a great event for kids across our community,” said Josh Garcia, deputy superintendent for Tacoma Public Schools. “Often times kids need additional relevant materials that they connect with, take home and feel.” Garcia also said books build confidence in children.

Or to put it another way, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” said Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh.

“Providing books to kids in school is a very first step in getting people on the path to education and opportunities in life. Reading is fundamental and Goodwill is really all about providing those fundamental skills to people so that they can get that first job or that second-chance job and advance in their realm. It all starts at the beginning. It all starts with reading. It all starts with books,” said Lori Forte Harnick, president and CEO of Goodwill.

“Teachers are constantly looking for ways to expand students’ access to relevant and meaningful books to support their early literacy teaching,” said Garcia. “Kids need more than textbooks to develop the foundation of literacy and prose, two skills that are critical to thinking and performance later in life. Right now one of the top teacher grant requests at middle and elementary schools is for take-home reading materials to develop this important foundation.”

According to White, the need for classroom resources, such as age-appropriate reading books, has contributed to many elementary school students struggling with reading. To resolve that issue, perhaps more students will simply find copies of “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, which says: “You find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax. All you need is a book.”

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