IFT Helps Needy Students Get Free Books

by Beth Camplain | Jan 03, 2014
Our union and locals partner with First Book to provide thousands of new books to kids statewide.

The faces of Kamille Krupka’s first grade students at Goodwin Elementary School in Cicero, Ill. lit up when they were each handed their own book recently, thanks to the efforts of the IFT and West Suburban Teachers Union, Local 571, through a partnership with First Book, a nonprofit organization.

“We have so many underprivileged children in our community, so it is wonderful that our union is able to help get books into their hands that they can take home and call their own,” Krupka said. “This brings them joy and may help spark a critical interest in reading, which we know is essential for their future success."

 Goodwin Elementary first grade teacher Kamille Krupka presents her student Julissa Cisneros with a free book provided by the West Suburban Teachers Union and First Book.

Nearly 2,000 new books for children in grades PreK-6 were delivered to each Goodwin and Lincoln Elementary Schools in October. Local 571, which represents the teachers and school personnel in Cicero School Dist. 99, partnered with First Book to register its members for the program and qualify Cicero students to receive the free books. Retired Goodwin teacher and Local 571 Vice President Alice Kautsky, who also serves as an IFT Vice President, coordinated the effort.

West Suburban Teachers Union Vice President Alice Kautsky and Asst. Principal Neil Kiewiet distribute free books to Goodwin Elementary first graders.

The Quincy Federation of Teachers, Local 809, also partnered with IFT and First Book to benefit students in that community. Thanks to the participation and dedication of teachers and PSRPs, the local was able to distribute more than 300 books to students at Washington Elementary School.

IFT Secretary-Treasurer Marcia Campbell read to students during book distributions in Quincy (above) and North Chicago.

 In North Chicago, Lake County Federation of Teachers, Local 504, members worked together to secure 1,500 books for economically disadvantaged kids at North Elementary School in December.

The IFT, under the leadership of Secretary-Treasurer Marcia Campbell, worked with the American Federation of Teachers to establish a state partnership with First Book to provide free books to needy students in Illinois communities. Last fall, IFT members and leaders volunteered to assist with a book bank in River Grove, Ill., where more than 426,000 books were sorted and shipped to schools in the state and across the country.

"Unions are usually seen only as groups looking to benefit their own members. We know that is far from the case," said Kautsky. "Partnering with First Book in Cicero, Quincy and North Chicago to get books to kids who can't afford them shows how our union is working for students and communities. We are fighting for kids' futures, not just our own salaries and benefits."

First Book is a non-profit organization that provides new books to children in need, addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books. Nationwide, First Book has distributed more than 100 million free and low cost books to children who otherwise could not afford them.

To learn more and register to receive free or discounted books for your school or one in your neighborhood, visit firstbook.org.