First-grader Olivia Allen, an avid reader, shops for pet related books at the Pumpkin Center Scholastic Book Fair.

DENVER – From the famed “Goosebumps” series to a plethora of princess picture books, the Scholastic Book Fair has provided opportunities for children to build their own at-home libraries for decades.

According to Scholastic's website, the nearly century-old publishing company has been setting up shop in school libraries for more than 30 years. The books are hand-selected by publishers to pique the interests of readers of all ages, starting with preschoolers.

From Sept. 25-27, Pumpkin Center Primary hosted a Scholastic Book Fair, and parents and guardians were invited to have have breakfast with their students on Wednesday Sept. 27 before purchasing books.

Some students, however, aren’t able to purchase books on their own. That’s where the Gift of Reading program, sponsored by the Parent Teacher Organization, comes in.

“We are thrilled about the Gift of Reading program here at PCP,”  Emily Kerley, the school’s media coordinator, said.  “Students who may not have funds to purchase a book during the fall or spring fair (are given) the opportunity to take home a special book.”

The program was inspired by the late Kandace Helms who was an active member of the PTO and volunteered at the book fair annually.

“Kandace Helms loved to read,” Kerley said. “She would often bring her own change to help students purchase books.”

Now, a donation is made in Helms’ memory to help continue her efforts and ensure children are able to go home with a book.

“The year Kandace passed away, one of our other board members, Rhonda Franklin, suggested the PTO have a ‘gift of reading fund’ in her memory,” Chanda Courtney, a fellow board member and Helms’ friend, said. “It was a unanimous decision – we all wanted to do something that made a difference in her name.”

Originally, the PTO proposed that the fund be used to make up the difference between the amount of money the student had and the cost of the book, Courtney explained. For example, if a book costs $7.50 and a student only brings in $7, two quarters would be pulled from the cash box to make up the difference.

However, the recent Kandace Helms 5K, which took place on Sept. 9, allowed the PTO to donate $500 toward the cause.

“The memorial fund of $500 made it possible to put books in the hands of 100-200 students,” Kerley said.

Students are called from their classrooms to select a book under $5; the options are laid out beforehand.

“I pick up students selected from their classroom and say ‘There was once a lady named Mrs. Kandace Helms who loved to read. You have been selected to receive a special book today,’” Kerley explained, noting that each child’s face “brightens up” during the process.

Each book is stamped with an emblem to remind the students that they and the book were chosen in Helms’ honor.


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