Special to the Times
The Boston Teachers Union (BTU), in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and First Book, distributed more than 40,000 free books to Boston Public Schools students and families Saturday at its 10th annual Back to School Fair at the union hall in Dorchester.
Special guests Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram, and BTU President Jessica Tang addressed approximately 1,500 attendees who braved the rain to celebrate the beginning of the 2023-24 school year with book readings from local authors, as well as over 50 city, district and community partners tabling at the event to share resources for families. The Boston Public Health Commission also provided a flu vaccination clinic.
“This is an incredible event that we look forward to every year,” Mayor Wu addressed the audience. “All our families benefit when we can put resources where they are needed. We love our teachers, and we are so grateful for what you do for our city.”
School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson, Boston City Councilors Ed Flynn, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia, and Brian Worrell, Massachusetts State Representatives John Moran and Chris Worrell, and BPS Deputy Superintendent of Equity, Community and Family Advancement Ana Tavares were among the attendees who participated in the 10th anniversary celebration. Local authors Dana Buefort (also a BTU educator), Vincent Yee and BPS 4th grader Leiah Atkins held read-alouds of their books: “Adoption Is…”, “Clara Wu and the Portal” and “Sparkle in the Dark,” respectively. City Council Education Chair Julia Mejia also read aloud and distributed copies of “Different Kinds of Hurt: Isaac’s Story”, a book distributed by the MA Department of Mental Health.
“The BTU has done an outstanding job delivering for your community,” echoed Ingram. “Reading is fundamental, and this event is absolutely a part of the solution to help us have better schools.”
The BTU is committed to promoting equitable literacy, culturally relevant curriculum and the freedom to learn real history. Over the last decade, the Union has distributed more than 400,000 books to families and educators across the City at this annual welcome back to school event as well as additional smaller Reading Opens the World events.
“We look forward to this Back to School Book Fair every year, and are so grateful to those who have helped us distribute more than 400,000 books over the last ten years,” said President Tang, who planned the very first fair in 2013. The fair has continued to grow in size each year and is a particularly important community initiative considering recent events. “Across the country, we’ve seen a dramatic uptick in school boards banning books, especially those focused on topics that reflect the experiences of our students, families and communities. We’re proud to stand up against these practices and provide our community with culturally relevant and important stories, as well as tips and tools to promote literacy.”