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Swap Till You Drop

Old books became new again when boys in pre-k through fifth grade took turns “shopping” at the Lower School Library’s annual Book Swap on Wednesday, January 17. Leading up to the event, students collected 6,000 books — more than double last year’s number! They didn’t waste any time after making selections; many boys immediately began reading their new books on the stage in the Stevens Room. Head of Lower School Linda Fussell gave a big congratulations to senior library assistant Alice Garten, who led the event, as well as the parent volunteers, the librarians, and the maintenance staff for all their hard work. “It took many hands to pull off what was arguably the BEST Book Swap ever,” she said. “Our boys went home so happy, treasures in hands, noses in books.”

Books that remained at the end of the day were donated to local nonprofits, including a women’s and children’s shelter and a literacy program. Discussions about equity and access to reading materials were woven into the curriculum leading up to the swap. “It’s not just about giving the books away,” said Lower School librarian Melissa Da. “It’s an opportunity to look at systemic issues.” Next year, there are plans for the Office of Community, Inclusion, and Equity to get involved in the effort.

Though the swap is an annual event, a few new elements were introduced in 2024: Boys across all divisions (rather than only the Lower School) were asked to donate their gently used books, and Upper School students were invited to offer help with guiding young shoppers. In partnership with the tri-schools, a portion of the remaining books were added to Roland Park Country School’s collection to donate to the Maryland Book Bank. Additionally, the directors of the Bridges programs from Gilman and Bryn Mawr also had the opportunity to select books to give to participating Bridges students.

Second-time committee chair Michele Rosenstein who has a son in fifth grade, said it’s been an “incredibly rewarding” experience. She intends to remain on the planning committee for the Lower School event, even as her son transitions to Middle School. “Reading to and with children piques their interest in books starting at an early age,” she said. “It’s so important for lifelong learning.”

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