School book swap turns into ‘traveling book trunk’ for Howell youngsters

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HOWELL – Two Howell educators have started a “traveling book trunk” so their students can enjoy fresh titles for their summer reading.

During the last few years, students have had a book swap at school to get new books for their summer reading. When schools closed in March and remained shuttered for the remainder of the academic year because of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, the book swaps could not be held.

Colleen Tondi, a first grade teacher at the Adelphia School, and Renee LeFante, an instructional coach at the Ardena and Adelphia schools, came up with the idea of  a “traveling book trunk.”

“The ‘traveling book trunk’ reminded me of my childhood days in Howell when the Monmouth County Library had a bookmobile that would stop at the end of my street every few weeks throughout the summer,” LeFante said.

“We asked for donations of slightly used books from staff members in both schools. We sorted the books by genre and put them in bins to make looking for books easier for the students,” she said.

From June 24-26, the two educators brought the bins loaded with books to different neighborhoods in Howell. Children could “shop” for books that interested them, Tondi and LeFante said.

LeFante said graphic novels and books with dogs were very popular with the youngsters.

“Every year at school we do a book swap where kids come in with books they have already read and don’t want any more, and they swap those books with other children so they leave the school with summer reading.

“But this year because (the schools were closed) and the students could not have a book swap, we decided to come to them with books they could keep,” LeFante said.

Educators who joined Tondi and LeFante with the “traveling book trunk” were Erin Beelitz, a fourth grade teacher, and Deanna Morris, a special education teacher at the Ardena School, Pat Flaherty, media assistant, and Elana Rofe.

“We thought this was a great way to reconnect with the community and of course our students after a long period of remote learning. It will be great to see our students again  and share our love of books and reading,” LeFante said.