Three kids who spotted the Greer Book Fairies in their neighborhood picked their favorite books to keep for summer reading from an extra crate of books the fairies brought last Saturday in their visits to local neighborhoods. Credit: Credit: Kayli Wren, Charlottesville Tomorrow

A group of Greer Elementary teachers fondly called the “Book Fairies” spent Saturday dressed in purple tutus and glitter driving a school bus around their district and delivering bags of books to their students.

By the end of the day, the fairies had delivered almost 650 books to the homes of 127 students who receive extra reading support during the school year. This was the second time this summer the book fairies have made their trek.

“We realize that a lot of the students that we serve that are getting extra help with their reading are coming back to school and they’ve slid a little bit over the summer,” said Sarah Scott, one of the reading teachers who created the program.

“We know that it’s all about having access to books,” Scott added. “They will read if they have the books, but [the books] have to be in their home, so building the family library is one of our main goals.”

Since the inception of the Book Fairies program three years ago, Greer teachers have set up a “bookstore” for their students before summer break. The students pack two bags with books that they are excited to read and want to own for themselves, and the fairies deliver them during the summer.

Students take their favorite book home on the last day of school to start reading and get excited for what’s to come. Parents are told which days the fairies will visit, but not the time, leaving an element of surprise, Scott said.

“We want our students to be reading,” Scott said. “That is the one thing that families can do over the summer, just to help their children to be prepared for the next school year, is just reading for pleasure.”

The fairies carry an extra crate of books for students who don’t receive a bag of books but spot the fairies in their neighborhood, as well as Popsicles.

“One of the things that we try to instill in them is that reading is magical,” Scott said. “It can take you to different places, it can take you to meet different people, and it’s all about the magic of reading.”

For Scott, the Book Fairies’ costumes are just one more element of this message that reading is positive and magical.

These summer trips also allow teachers and students to reconnect during the long break from school.

“We’re coming to continue building these strong relationships that we have with our students,” Scott said. “We miss them over the summer, so this is a treat for us, too. Not only to bring them new books, but to say hi and see what they’re doing, find out what they’ve been reading, and let them know that we’re really excited to see them back in the fall.”

Emily, a rising third-grader at Greer, received a visit from the Book Fairies on Saturday.

Her favorite books are a series called “Owl Diaries,” by Peter Marks. The sixth book in the series was recently published, and Scott told Emily they would have to get it for her in the fall. 

If a family isn’t home when the fairies visit, they leave the bag of books on the front door so that students can discover the books they picked out for themselves later.

Greer teacher Jorie DeBoer left a bag with “Llama, Llama, Time to Share,” and “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” among other books for one of her kindergarteners.

“I want reading to be a habit that is pleasurable and that they want to do and is associated with positive memories and positive experiences,” DeBoer said.

Tracy Sides, a special education teacher at Greer, recalled her rising fifth-grader’s excitement when she picked out her books for the first time this year.

“She just lit up. It was amazing,” Sides said. “She was like, ‘These are my books? I get to read these books this summer? These are mine, just mine?’”

That moment further convinced Sides that the book program was an important one, both for giving students their choice of books and igniting the desire to read.

“It’s all about the kids,” Sides said. “I think this district in general seems to be very honed in on student learning and student growth and success.”

The Book Fairies program is one of several ways Greer is reaching out to students and families beyond the classroom.

Principal Robyn Bolling said that this year, Greer is adjusting one of its positive outreach programs in order to reach as many families as possible.

In the past, Greer teachers have gone and knocked on the doors of all their students before the school year starts to introduce themselves to the families.

But in the past few years, Bolling said, the number of families who move into the school district after the year begins has skyrocketed. Last year, almost 130 students registered after the first day of school, and didn’t have the chance to attend events such as an open house.

In response, Greer will conduct its outreach about a month after the school year begins with the hope of reaching as many families as possible, Bolling said.

“That relationship with parents is probably one of our top goals,” she said. “If we can get the parents and that relationship feeling safe and great about school, then we can engage them to help us with the learning.”