BookFest encourages literacy and brings community together

By Maxine Betteridge-Moes –

The gymnasium of Elmdale Public School was a flurry of activity on the evening of Feb. 26 for the opening night of the school’s annual BookFest. Students and their families nibbled on baked goods while browsing through the selection of over 30,000 donated books. The event is one of the community’s largest literary festivals and it is a huge fundraiser for the school.

BookFest organizer Pete Laughton says the fundraiser is a fantastic way to build ties in the community and to talk about literacy. Photos by Maxine Betteridge-Moes.
BookFest organizer Pete Laughton says the fundraiser is a fantastic way to build ties in the community and to talk about literacy. Photos by Maxine Betteridge-Moes.

BookFest has been an annual event for over 25 years, and it was Elmdale parent Pete Laughton’s first as organizer. Last year, the event raised $10,000. This year, it was $14,000. He says the response from students and their families was overwhelming.

Elmdale classes compete to see who can bring in the most books, and this year’s donations surpassed last year’s total of 20,000 books.

In addition to being an important fundraiser for the school, the event is also a great way to bring the community together.

“This is much more than a book sale. The books are the focus, but it’s also a fantastic way to build ties in the community… and to talk about literacy, and the issues that affect the school. It generates a lot of social activity,” says Laughton.

Christine Rowsell, mother of two and Kitchissippi resident, has been coming to BookFest since her daughters started at the school five years ago. She says the event seemed bigger this year, and that there was a wider diversity of books to choose from.

“I think it’s a really good event because it promotes literacy. My girls are really excited to be getting books,” she says.

Rowsell adds that her children were excited about the competition between classrooms to bring in the most books.

“It’s good for de-cluttering,” she laughs. [story continues below]

Elmdale students Cleo, 12, and Sophie, 11, help out at the cash table on the opening night of their school’s annual BookFest on Feb. 26.
Elmdale students Cleo, 12, and Sophie, 11, help out at the cash table on the opening night of their school’s annual BookFest on Feb. 26.
Elmdale parent Giselle Incze volunteers at the bake sale with students Matthew, 8, Callia, 8, and Ava, 9.
Elmdale parent Giselle Incze volunteers at the bake sale with students Matthew, 8, Callia, 8, and Ava, 9.

Bob Plamondon, author of The Truth About Trudeau, and Robert McMechan, author of Allison’s Brain, read selections of their work on Thursday night, which was reserved for students of Elmdale and their families.

Plamondon lives in the Kitchissippi area and has two children at Elmdale. He has attended BookFest every year since his children started at the school and he was happy to be asked to do a reading this year.

“Any chance to talk about what I’ve written is always welcome, but in particular I wanted to support BookFest and to support my kids’ school,” says Plamondon.

Frances Itani, the award-winning author of Deafening; and Charles Gordon, author of The Canadian Trip and At the Cottage read selections of their work on Friday. Mark Sutcliffe, publisher of Kitchissippi Times and author of Why I Run did a reading on Saturday. Both Friday and Saturday were open to the public and the readings were very well received.

BookFest is entirely run by parent volunteers, who also help with the set up and take down of the displays, and organize a bake sale and a raffle to promote the joy of reading and raise additional funds for the school.

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