When Islander Middle School Librarian Denise Radow sees a wrinkle in the forehead of a parent shopping at Island Books Book Fair, she knows just what to do. "That wrinkle tells me that they don't know what book to get their child that will engage them, make them want to read more," she said. "Chances are, I know their child's reading level and enough about him or her to recommend a book they'll enjoy. I've made it my personal mission to find a good book for every kid I know."
For 25 years, Island Books has been lending a helping hand to Mercer Island schools and school libraries by hosting 8-12 book fairs during the month of November.
"In 2009 we donated approximately $14,300 to community schools," said bookstore owner Roger Page. "We give half of our profit from their book fair to each school, so we have raised somewhere between $250-$300,000 over the past 25 years, which is a lot of money for a small, family-owned bookstore."
Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) volunteers from each school pick a night to hold their book fair at Island Books. The parents bring wine and hors d'ouvres and the school librarian sets up a table with books that are on her 'wish list' for the school library. Parents, teachers and administrators are then invited to come and shop for books and gifts, while enjoying a party atmosphere. "I opt to time my (November) visit to Island Books with the book fair because it has a double benefit," said Michelle Martin, Islander Middle School mom. "I get to shop for my son, and I have a friend's birthday coming up that I can shop for as well, plus I'm supporting an institution that I love, Island Books."
Steven Gerlock and Celia Morant, who also have children in middle school, feel that the tradition of supporting the schools during the book fair is important to the community. "I'm going to buy a book for my 14-year-old that will convince her to read more, but I am also buying self-help books for my business," said Morant. "I'm buying computer and leadership books for my business as well, but we wait to buy all our books until (the book fair) because we know a portion of what we buy goes to the school, and schools need as much help as they can get these days."
Jill Seidel, chair of the Island Book nights for the Islander Middle School PTA, has been involved in setting up book fairs since her high-school age children were in elementary school. "I've learned how incredibly generous Roger and his staff are with their book fairs, but also with their support of the schools year round," she said. "I'm always appreciative of Roger having the all the books on school book lists available, plus he gives discounts to school libraries."
Jayne Witman, PTA President of Islander Middle School and a fan of Island Books "Baggalini" handbags, noted that this 'fantastic' event is a lifeline for school libraries and PTAs during the depressed economy. "In this day and age when people are going away from paper books, it's a good way to support this vital local business while getting your holiday shopping done and knowing that the proceeds, even on gift certificates, help us meet our fundraising goals for the year."
Vicky Mann, 7th grade teacher at Islander Middle School, said she wants to not just support the school, but keep kids involved in reading. "I tell my kids if you want a book idea, go to Island Books, because Roger can help anyone find the perfect book in no time. It's a bonus that the money from that purchase goes to the school," she said. "This is the last bastion of an independent community store on Mercer Island; what's not to love about being surrounded by good books?"
Island Books 2010 Fall Book Fairs Schedule
Island Books is located at 3014 78th Avenue SE, Mercer Island,Wash.
All events run from 6:30 to 8:30pm unless otherwise specified
Tuesday, November 9th, Pixie Hill Preschool
Friday, November 12th, Mercer Island Learning Lab
Tuesday, November 16th, Emmanuel Day School
Wednesday, November 17th, Island Park Elementary
Thursday, November 18th, St. Monica School
Saturday, November 20th, St. Thomas School (all day)
Monday, November 22nd, Mercer Island High School (7:00-9:oopm)
Tuesday, November 30th, Sunnybeam School