More than 400 students from Columbus Elementary School had about 20 minutes to grab and pack bags with as many books as they could.
The free books were part of Sen. Shirley Turner’s annual book fair. The fair is the result of a book drive by Turner where books are donated to a different school each year in Trenton. This year 13,000 books were donated.
“The reason why the senator began this whole book fair is because there used to be five libraries in Trenton. And then under the Mack administration, four of them closed. And so there is only one in downtown Trenton, which is very limited access due to transportation so parents and their children aren’t able to get there. Our goal was to have 10 books per kid. We far exceeded to about 27 books per kid,” said Cindy Cortez, manager of external affairs for Turner.
The books are separated by grade and subject to help direct teachers and students to the appropriate reading levels. For some students this will be the first time they have the opportunity to bring home as many books as they want on any topic that they want.
“I’m going to give half of my books that I have to my brothers. I am going to help them read together, like we all can read together as night,” said fifth grader Carlos DeLeon.
“When I asked students privately how many books do you have at home? What types of books? It was jaw dropping in a way to see zero books, one book, five books, mom’s books,” said Katherine Chrusz, school literacy leader for Columbus Elementary School.
Chusz says for many students this will also be the first time they’ve ever wrote their name in a book. In addition to the book fair, a history re-enactor promoted reading by speaking to student about the history of Trenton.
“We’re dealing with a generation where reading a book takes more effort than sitting in front of a screen and having the information fed to you. But the base of all learning is reading because most of the information is based of books,” said Algernon Ward, a historical re-enactor.
The city of Trenton says it’s actively pursuing grant opportunities for additional library funding.