A reading specialist and former reading coordinator for the Tahoma School District for 42 years, Ann Fletcher knows about many different genres of books, book companies, what books are trending and which ones are not.
Her knowledge and passion for reading made it a natural fit for her to commandeer “Book Shelf,” the community outreach program of Friends of the Issaquah Library. During Book Shelf, children up to age 18 can come to the foyer of the food bank where hundreds of new or gently used books are set up in carts. Kids can take one or two books home with them.
The goal of Book Shelf is to promote family reading, early literacy, and library participation by distributing appealing, appropriate books to families at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.
Started in 2005, Book Shelf is funded by two book sales the Friends of the Library hold each year. In fact the next one is Nov. 1-3 at the library. All of the books at the Friends sale are donated — and the group is still accepting donations. Dues from the Friends also helps fund Book Shelf.
Fletcher said it was important to establish a good relationship with the Food and Clothing Bank, which they did.
She buys books that are hard to find, such as bilingual books. With her literary partners, she often gets books at a very special price, including 20 percent off at Barnes and Noble.
The books are sorted and separated by age category. That’s where her expertise comes in. In keeping up with trends, she knows what kids like. The Twilight books are still of interest to the tween crowd, and Berenstein Bears continue to be popular with the little ones. And now, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys carry cell phones.
“Parents know what their kids are reading,” she said. “If they can’t find anything that interests them, I try to find it.”
The Book Shelf program was the brainchild of Leslie Willson, secretary of Friends of the Issaquah Library as a way to provide books for disadvantaged kids. Fletcher has been involved since its inception.
She has a total of about 16 volunteers, mostly retired teachers and librarians, but could use more.
Fletcher has the books delivered to her home where they are organized by age group, and processed. This year will mark a milestone, as they give out book number 20,000 at some point in the distribution.
To celebrate the 20,000 book milestone, Monday, Oct. 28, from 5-7 p.m., not only will they give away books, but alumni from the pre-school, A Children’s Garden, will have homemade book marks for each book. The book shelf will return to the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank Nov. 5-7 from 10 a.m. until noon each day to distribute books.
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