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Seattle "First Book" Event About More than Reading


Friday, May 16, 2014   

SEATTLE – It's more than a chance to pick up a couple of free books this weekend at the Seattle Center. At a First Book Resource Fair on Saturday, families can learn more about 20 local community groups, from the arts to social services.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Washington partnered with the national nonprofit group First Book to organize the event.

The goal is to jumpstart summer reading by getting new books to hundreds of children whose families might not otherwise be able to afford them.

AFT Washington President Karen Strickland says it fits the mission of the union, which represents educators and support staff.

"As an institution, we can have a very direct, positive impact on individual lives,” she says, “besides the work we do as the union – you know, by providing books and pulling people together. And we all have a shared interest, right? It's about quality of life for everybody."

Strickland adds many AFT Washington members also are parents of school-age children.

According to the First Book organization, young children from lower-income families have one-fourth the vocabulary of their higher-income peers, in part because they don't have books at home or people who read with them.

In Washington, most AFT members work in colleges and universities. But Strickland says the ties to K-through-12 education and even preschool are critical. She explains what happens in those early years eventually affect the course content and budget in higher education.

"Legislators and decision-makers are becoming less comfortable with providing so much remedial education at the college level,” she says. “I mean, it makes sense – you don't want to pay for education when a child is in K-12 and then, pay for the same kind of education when they get to higher ed. So, it's good to reinforce K-12 success."

Strickland says the union is planning other First Book events in other cities in Washington.

The Resource Fair at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall is this Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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