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First Book helps stock Elmira children’s library


In an effort to support the education of children under their care, PEF members and leaders are working with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) First Book program to restock the children’s library at Elmira Psychiatric Center.

Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 185 million books and educational resources to programs and schools in more than 30 countries.

“First Book believes that education is the best way out of poverty for children in need,” the program website states. “First Book aims to remove barriers to quality education for all kids by making everything from new, high-quality books and educational resources to sports equipment, winter coats, snacks and more – affordable to its member network of more than 500,000 educators who exclusively serve kids in need.”

Last year, PEF donated books obtained through the First Book program to Elmira and this year a PEF teacher at the facility approached PEF Region 2 Coordinator Andrew Puleo hoping to acquire more books for the children’s library.

“I contacted (VP) Randi DiAntonio,” Puleo said. “She reached out to AFT and the representative offered us a $1,000 budget. I told Division 223 if they needed more funds, I would match up to $250 of their Division funds.”

DiAntonio said reading is an integral part of a child’s development and helps to increase concentration and empathy.

Elmira Psychiatric Center Children’s Library

“Collaboration with First Book supports the valuable work done by PEF treatment professionals and, most importantly, benefits the children and youth currently being served to better emotionally regulate and deal with life stressors in a positive and appropriate way,” she said.

Between the AFT credit and PEF funds, the budget for new books at Elmira rose to $1,500. The first 80 books are due to arrive at the facility soon.

Elmira teacher Kaylee Depue worked with the students at the facility to choose titles for the library.

“They were excited,” she said. “They picked all but five books. It’s awesome that we got this donation and that the kids can have input. They picked out a lot of books that I’ve never even heard of.”

The library at Elmira hasn’t been restocked in a long time, Depue said, and stocking the library usually falls to generous teachers and staff spending money out of their own pockets and using donations from community groups and churches.

First Book affords them the chance to stock the library with brand new books of the students’ choosing.

“We will definitely have an entire new library,” Depue said.

DiAntonio said it’s important to make a difference in the lives of these children.

“These libraries will leave a legacy and show how PEF members support the needs of our most vulnerable children and youth,” she said. “I’m so proud of this effort.”

Elmira includes a 12-bed Child/Adolescent Unit that offers therapeutic treatment which includes working with the student’s home school and prepares them to return to their school and community-based services.