Novel approach brings free books to Glen Park Academy kids
The children walked into the library at the Glen Park Academy on Friday wide-eyed and excited. They knew they would soon walk out with a free book.
Eight-year-old second-graders Keshon Adams and Quann Lowe both picked a Dr. Seuss book, “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”
Keshon said it’s hard to resist fish.
“I like the fish,” he said. “And I like to read long stuff.”
His classmate, Quann, said he loves to read. “I usually read to myself,” he said.
First grade teacher Brian Andreshak organized the free Mother’s Day book giveaway hosted by School House Children’s Charity, the non-profit he founded last year.
“We are committed to building a future in which all children have access to comfort, safety, and the learning tools necessary to support their education,” Andreshak said.
Andreshak, who’s taught in Gary for 22 years, also organizes a winter coat giveaway in the fall months for children throughout the Gary Community School Corp.
His own parents, JoAnn and Vern Andreshak, of Schererville, served as volunteers along with retired Gary teacher Mary Gerritsen and Gary Teachers Union President GlenEva Dunham.
Each child in the K-5 school of more than 500 students received a book appropriate to their age.
Volunteers steered the children to tables to peruse and select books. Andreshak said more than 600 books were available.
Principal Eric Worthington said the books were chosen not just by students’ age groups, but also for their African-American heritage.
“You have to realize your audience. There are a lot of books with characters who look like them,” said Worthington.
Also among the offerings was “She Persisted,” Chelsea Clinton’s series about women whose skills and tenacity shaped the U.S.
Some of the books were STEM-related, too. This week, the Glen Park Academy was among 19 schools to be certified as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) school by the Indiana Department of Education.
Worthington said the school’s library is on the rebound after it closed when the district faced financial cuts during its 2017 state takeover.
He said the library reopened with grant money and now it’s fully stocked again. A spokeswoman said it’s the district’s goal to reopen all its libraries next year.
“We know they’re the lifeblood of schools,” said Worthington of the libraries.
Second grade teacher Margaret Vazquez said the books are a godsend to her students.
She said the rough economy since the pandemic likely forced many parents to purchase household necessities ahead of books.
“A lot of them don’t have new books at home. There’s been a lot of excitement — it’s Christmas in May,” she said.
Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.