Elizabeth Avenue School Teacher Starts ‘Read Across America Month’ With Book Giveaway

Elizabeth Avenue School teacher Christa McLaughlin helps students Ava Lloyd, Maria Cruz Vasquez, Harlen Palma Martinez, Kristian Josifoski, Gianna Tomasello pick out books.

Christa McLaughlin glanced over to the group of five 1st Graders eating their lunch at a table in her classroom.

“Boys and girls,” she said, “do you like books?”

“Yes!” the students answered.

Their answer did not come as a surprise. McLaughlin, herself a book lover, has been stoking that passion for books in her students during her teaching career. But it wasn’t until two years ago that a chance meeting at an NJEA conference gave her the opportunity to supercharge that effort.

The meeting was with a representative of the Bridge of Books Foundation, the Rumson-based organization dedicated to bringing books to underserved students throughout New Jersey.

That led to McLaughlin applying for book donations for students at Elizabeth Avenue School. Last school year, she received enough books in June to give each student three books for summer reading.

This year, the foundation donated 1,100 books to the school, thanks to another of McLaughlin’s applications.

“I didn’t really think I was going to get it again, but they donated 1,100 books for Read Across America, which begins today,” she said.

The books are grade-appropriate and are sorted by McLaughlin and put into boxes. Then studemnts from the school’s various classes are invited to her classroom to “shop.”

This year, each student will be able to pick two books.

The shopping sprees will last during the week of March 1, she said.

“Last year, we didn’t make a big deal about it, it was the end of the year,” she said. “We’ve been redistricted, so we have a different population this year. Also, we have 5th Grade, which we didn’t have last year. So they gave me books from Pre-K to 5, and all these books have been donated. They’re in beautiful condition.”

McLaughlin and her husband, a retired teacher himself, believe so strongly in the program that they volunteer at the foundation’s warehouse in Holmdel, not too far from their home.

McLaughlin also started a book club for her students.

“They love books and I love books, and they know that,” she said. “I bring in a lot of material.”

John Haney, the school principal, was enthusiastic about McLaughlin’s efforts.

“We’re trying to encourage reading,” he said. “That’s really what it’s all about for us, encouraging literacy.”

“We have a lot of kids who don’t have access to books, and this really helps them,” Haney said. “It’s not just learning to read, it’s learning to love to read. That’s what ‘s important.”


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