Book drive showcases C-U’s generosity

By Nick Fawell

Smiles will be gracing the faces of many local school librarians this week.

New books for the libraries of local elementary, junior high, private and high schools will be delivered in the next week or so, compliments of the ninth annual Books by the Bushel book drive, which ran Friday through Sunday at Pages for All Ages bookstore, 1201 Savoy Plaza in Savoy.

The book drive, which was founded nine years ago by the Champaign-Urbana School’s Foundation, was taken over by the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana four years ago and continues to provide brand-new books for area schools’ libraries.

The Junior League, a group of dedicated women volunteers in the Champaign-Urbana area, have worked with Pages for All Ages bookstore in Savoy to raise nearly a thousand books every year for local schools.

Each year – typically during spring – librarians from local schools submit a wish list of 35 books they would like to have for their school’s library. The lists are given to Pages for All Ages bookstore, which provides a 20 percent discount for anyone who would like to buy a book or two for the schools.

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    Tonia Leotsakos, manager at Pages for All Ages, has organized Books by the Bushel with the Junior League for the previous four years. She said that if a school does not get all the books on their wish list, Pages for All Ages will donate the rest of the books.

    “Schools just don’t get enough money for all the books that they need,” Leotsakos said. “So it’s nice to be able to help the schools get the things that they need at a discounted price. And it kind of makes the community feel like they’re helping, too.”

    Leotsakos explained that there also is a trend in books requested by the schools. The Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events books are always popular choices among librarians, as well as the Newbery and Caldecott Award winners.

    Tracy Doubet, Books by the Bushel chairman for the Junior League, said that one of the best parts of her job is watching the community come together for the schools.

    “So many people come in and buy books for the schools,” Doubet said. “It’s just incredible. And the librarians are always just so excited to see all these new books.”

    The Junior League is involved in several programs that serve the Champaign-Urbana community, including the Festival of Trees, in which local businesses sponsor Christmas trees or wreaths to be showcased at The Chancellor Hotel. Another program is Done in a Day (DIAD), where Junior League volunteers do various short-term jobs throughout the community.

    Kim Fritchey, a Junior League volunteer who has worked with Books by the Bushel for the past three years, explained that the whole point of the event is to promote welfare among children.

    “It gives the students a little bit more variety in what they’re able to choose and read,” Fritchey said. “We all know how poor our schools are usually.”