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BooksTomorrow morning (Saturday, May 14th) every kid in Tompkins County can get a free book.  Teachers, too -- they can pick up books for their classrooms or to give to children they teach.  Area teacher's union members raised over 2,000 signatures to obtain 40,000 free books with reading levels ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade.  Teachers from every district in Tompkins County will be on hand Saturday to give the books away.

"We have 40,000 free, brand new books coming to the BOCES campus to be given away on Saturday morning," says Lansing Faculty Association President Stacie Kropp.  "Any families, any kids, any teachers, any parents, grandparents, any school person can get books for free.  Stacks of them."

The books come from First Book, a non-profit organization that provides new books and educational resources for free and at low cost to schools and programs serving children in need, from birth to age 18.  The organization raises money and gets books that are not sold from publishing clearing houses.  Last Spring the local teacher union leadership decided to try to raise enough signatures to get a shipment of books they could hand out for free.  Kropp says that the number of signatures determines how many books you get.  Area teacher's union officials gathered over 2,000 signatures, making the county eligible for 40,000 books.

"It's completely free on our side," Kropp explains.  It's just the work of the union leaders in the area gathering the signatures, and the work of those same union leaders and the teachers from all of our schools being at the BOCES campus Thursday night and Friday night to sort books and Saturday morning to hand them out.  All of the area educators will be on site to match kids and books."

A tractor-trailer truck brought the books to the TST BOCES campus.  Teachers from every school district, including 30 from Lansing, started sorting the books by reading level last night, and will continue to sort tonight.

"Our regional union director did a lot of organization," Kropp says.  "She's got shopping carts donated from Wegmans.  She's got trucks donated from Ithaca City School District to move the books to different parts of the BOCES campus.  Then the teachers show up Thursday night and start sorting the books by reading ability."

Kropp says that each child from K through 8th grade brought home flyers about the event.  She also reached out to the Board of Education, the press, and plans to get information on the school Web site to make sure every child's family is aware of the giveaway.

"We have books ranging from pre-K all the way up to 12th grade," she says.  "So this isn't just an elementary school program.  This is every student from K through 12 can get books on Saturday."

The teachers will be back at BOCES tomorrow morning to distribute the books.  Families and community members will come between 10am and noon.  Employees with school IDs can come between 9am and 10am for their classrooms.  What will happen to books that aren't taken?  Kropp says there won't be any.

"Every book is going to be taken," she says.  "That's my goal.  Every book finds a kid to take it home."

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