PEF, AFT enrich lives of children through First Book
BY DEBORAH A. MILES
On an unusually mild and sunny mid-December Saturday, the spirit of holiday giving transformed one room at Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie into a festive library.
Tables were adorned with fresh Balsam Fir arrangements made by the inmates who study horticulture, and books for all ages were neatly displayed, along with coloring books, crayons, dictionaries and some snacks.
Family members arrived to visit their incarcerated dad, husband or brother, and none of the visitors with children expected a wonderful surprise from PEF and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) who partnered with an organization called First Book.
After their visit, families were brought to this room where PEF Vice President Sharon V. DeSilva, PEF Region 8 Coordinator Michael Blue, PEF Associate Director of Field Services/Organizing Dan Carpenter and PEF activist Michelle Arroyo-Santos greeted the children and gave each one a book.
“It is great that PEF decided to do this collaborative event. The first time as a child when I opened a book, my heart started to race and my eyes were wide open. When you read the words, they take you to new places. Reading helps to remove you from the dysfunction that may be in your life. Books can take you to places that you can’t even imagine.
“It’s a beautiful feeling. That is one reason why we are here, to help the children get this experience. It is PEF’s way of showing that we care about children by giving them an opportunity to go to magical places,” DeSilva said.
“Reading will provide these children with experiences that they most likely will not have in their life. There is another world in a book,” added Arroyo-Santos.
Along with officials from the Greene Correctional Facility, Acting Commissioner at the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) Anthony J. Annucci attended.
“DOCCS has focused on education and training at all our facilities. The First Book program with the support from PEF and AFT is a wonderful example of extending education to children in need. It is especially appropriate during the holiday season to give support to these children,” Annucci said. “We are proud to be a part of this event.”
First Book is a leading voice in the movement for educational equality. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 175 million books and educational resources to community programs and schools in more than 30 countries.