By Neil Zolot
Intermittent light rain did not prevent people from attending the Kiwanis book giveaway at Miller Park on Harvard Street on Saturday, September 23. “It went well,” Kiwanis Club President Dawn Fitzgerald said. “The turnout was what you’d expect on an almost rainy day.”
It was originally scheduled for September 9 as Bubbles and Books with a bubble artist as entertainment, but it was cancelled due to rain. He couldn’t make it Saturday, but the Kiwanis made arrangements for tents; the books stayed dry and were passed out. September 9 was a rescheduled date from a rainy day in June. “It’s a totally free event usually done before summer vacation so kids have books, but we got rained out,” member Lisa Mendelson said.
The annual giveaways were started seven years ago by past and incoming President Robin Jorgenson. “I was trying to think of a way to get books to kids in a way we could afford,” she remembers. “People don’t like to throw away books. They want to pass them on to people who will use them and there’s evidence if kids own books they do better in school. It had to be free; every child is equal here. It makes it pleasant for the families. They don’t have to pay.”
“We want to give books to kids who want and need them,” Fitzgerald added. “The focus is to improve the lives of children and their literacy by putting books in the hands of kids that otherwise might not be able to afford them.”
“Children’s books are expensive,” Kiwanis Board of Directors member Danielle Hender pointed out. “The giveaways get books out to children whose families may not be able to afford them.”
Books are collected through the schools, and those not taken often end up in neighborhood library boxes or form a base of stock for the next year’s giveaway.
Mayor Gary Christenson took some time to swing by. “You can never have enough opportunities to promote the importance of reading,” he said. “My mother used to tell me one of the most important things to do to get ahead is read, read and read some more. This brings me back to what she said. I wanted to be involved and can’t be more grateful and proud of the Kiwanis for this.”
Chinese Culture Connection Executive Director Mei Hung also attended. “It’s important for kids to get connected to reading,” she feels. “It’s the fundamental way to learn and opens doors to everything.” She also feels having English language books helps children who live in homes where English is not the primary language.
State Representative, Malden Kiwanian, part time Suffolk and Salem State University professor and former Malden Catholic High School teacher Steven Ultrino called the giveaway “an extremely important event for the Malden Community. As an educator, I firmly believe that anytime you can place a book in the hand of a child, and in many instances, their family, you are giving them a gift of a lifetime. A book allows the child to learn, dream, think outside the box, and virtually travel to destinations where some have never been. Malden Kiwanis is allowing this opportunity to the community because it believes in fostering hope and opportunities one child at a time.”
Elaine Holbrook came over from Everett with her granddaughter Emily, of whom she is legal guardian, after seeing a post on Facebook. She grew up in public housing, where the giveaway is deliberately sited, near Miller Park, and attended the Daniels School, which now houses condominiums. She said Emily “loves to read,” leading them to fill three bags with books.
High School students from the Key Club were on hand to help. “A lot of kids were able to grab books they wouldn’t be able to buy – or have to go to the library,” senior Nicholas Duggan said. “They’re able to take the books home and keep them.”
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