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Who are the Book Fairies?

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Fairies are usually something we tell our kids exist when they’re little, like the tooth fairy, the fairies that live in enchanted gardens and Tinkerbelle, the most famous fairy of all!  I know of two fairies that DO exist here in Orange County and they’re called the Book Fairies. You’re invited to come meet the book fairies and support their organization by donating books at our Moms Night Out tomorrow night in Tustin.

How many times have you heard about an overwhelming problem like the low literacy rate here in California schools and thought to yourself, “What can one person do?”   The Book Fairies are here to explain how you can help make a difference in the life of child and help develop the love of reading.

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The Book Fairies are two retired English teachers who have adopted a classroom at Winchell Elementary School in Fresno for the last four years. They send the students nearly-new books on holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and the end of the year. These clean books, which do not look second hand, are gleaned from The Goodwill, Friends of the Library bookstores, or from friends and neighbors like you cleaning out their children’s bookshelves. The media rate makes them inexpensive to send, even when there are 30 or more.

Each shipment contains a note from the fairies, asking each child to select a book and take it home and telling them how important reading is in life and explaining to the children that they can be anything that they want to be if they do well in school and work hard. They must promise only to read their chosen book to themselves or to younger brothers, sisters, cousins, or have those people read it to them. The books are theirs to keep.

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Then, once a year, since the fairies live in Orange County, they travel to Fresno and answer questions about themselves and their grandchildren, read them their favorite stories, and give them their last book and a T-shirt that says, “The Book Fairies (heart) Love Me.”   They wear wings on this visit, and, yes, the children ask if they can fly. They always counter, “Only in my imagination and only when no one is looking.”

This project was launched when the Book Fairies met another teacher at a wedding and she explained that “the playing field is not level” when children come from homes where there are no books, the Book Fairies were sad and appalled.  Their grandchildren have so many books at home that they can’t even count them, it was time to act!

They were lucky enough to start with kindergarten classes for three years, but this year their partner teacher was teaching second grade, so they had a new challenge. Students from previous years return on the day they visit to tell them that they now can read themselves and want to show them. They are so excited to see the Book Fairies again that sometimes they’re wearing their kindergarten T-shirts, even if they’ve out grown them. One girl wanted to stay home from a field trip so that she could see the Book Fairies again.

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This year in the second grade class, the Book Fairies talked about “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers were surprisingly sophisticated, such as scientist, so the fairies talked about what kind of scientist. Do you like animals, volcanoes, rocks, plants? They gave them the titles of those occupations and discussed how many years of college were required for each.

The Book Fairies goal is not to take on more classrooms, although they have now adopted two third grade classes in the Santa Ana Unified School District here in Orange County, and because it is closer, they will probably visit them more often than once a year. Their interest is in getting other people to do the same thing. It is more than a program giving books to children who do not have any in their homes. Their plan is to get others interested in adopting a classroom in a district that really needs them, one that is outside their comfort zone. Then, the new Book Fairies can give the students their own personal touch.

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Now, maybe this is too vast a project for you to take on because you are busy reading to your own children, but maybe you could help with only a part. For instance, maybe you’re willing to donate barely used books that have no damage and no personal inscriptions. We’d like the students to feel that this gift is just for them. Or maybe you know a teacher who would love to have someone come into his/her classroom. This is the hardest part for us. We don’t know how to find interested teachers. Perhaps you know a retired teacher or a grandparent who would be perfect for this job and would really enjoy doing it. We have one more third grade class, two fifth and sixth grade classes waiting for sponsors.

If you would like to help by donating nearly-new books, please contact the Book Fairies at [email protected] and let them do the rest.  Please send books that do not have a child’s name in it already, and is in good shape.

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Did I mention the hugs and the smiles? Priceless.

Wendy is a wife and mom of three that lives in Coto. She enjoys experiencing life through the eyes of her kids, party planning, exercising, and cooking.
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2 Comments

  1. I am sorry I missed your event this week — my daughter sent me your post last night because I recently played The Book Fair-ie at my Granddaughter’s Book Fair. By coincidence I am in Santa Ana and I do know that not all students have easy access to books. The Dollar Book Fair was wonderful idea for them. All of the Volunteers dressed as a super hero which is what inspired the idea of being The Book Fair-ie. I love what you are doing and if you ever need another helper please contact me! The best part of volunteering is the HUGS!

    • Thank you Grandma KC and your daughter for reading our story on the Book Fairies. As retired English Teachers, Dorris and Barbara are well aware of the low literacy rate and how difficult it can be to have access to books in some areas. They have been donating books for years, most recently in Santa Ana. If you would like to help, please reach out to the Fairies at [email protected]

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