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Book swap stirs excitement at Riverhead school

Iris Castro, Izabela Radziwonski and Aimee Drexel, fifth-graders

Iris Castro, Izabela Radziwonski and Aimee Drexel, fifth-graders at the Pulaski Street School in Riverhead, browse the book swap. (June 13, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

The glossy covers of rows upon rows of paperback books shone in the light coming through the doors of the Pulaski Street School in Riverhead.

On the third day of the school’s first Book Swap, organizers had arranged the gently used books neatly on tables at the school’s entrance and across from the auditorium, where the fifth- and sixth-graders would eat their lunch. It was the quiet before the storm.

“They get very excited,” said Amy Brennan, a school literacy coach who helped organize the effort. For four days, two classes at a time were invited to the book swap during their lunch period to choose two books to kick off their summer reading.

Brennan said she and a pair of the school’s reading specialists - Danielle Goncalves and Barbara Marsicano - asked students to bring in their used books during the weeks prior to the swap and they were surprised to collect about 1,400.

After contributing their own books to the collection, the students were eager to get to the swap and complete the circle.

A few minutes before the scheduled classes were due at the tables, a tall boy in gym clothes walked by slowly, eyeing the tables as he went.

“Is the sixth grade coming today?” he asked.

“Your class should be coming later,” said Goncalves, who was manning one table. “But if you have a specific book you’re looking for, I can put it aside for you.”

He didn’t have anything in mind, the boy was just concerned that there would still be books by the time his class arrived.

Brennan said the swap was a huge success so far and she hopes to make it an annual event. She said the idea was to get a few books in the students’ hands for the summer, and especially for students who may not have access to a library when they aren’t in school.

“They are actually asking for titles,” she said. “That is very inspiring.”

Jorge Valdec, 11, of Riverhead, ran to the science fiction end of the table excitedly when his class came through. He seemed to be looking for something special as he picked up book after book in front of him.

“There are more in the boxes underneath,” Goncalves said.

“Whoa!” he said, diving into the boxes, and coming up with a copy of "Cinderella" and a big grin. “Is this perfect for me?”

He ended up taking home copies of “Godzilla” and “Fantastic Four” instead.

“There’s nothing better than putting books in the hands of the kids,” Goncalves said. “I could do this all day.”

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