POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – The library at the Pound Ridge Elementary School (PRES) was electric with anticipation on Thursday morning, Valentine’s Day.
Students queued up and tittered with excitement while waiting for the go-ahead for the event to begin from the teachers and parents on hand. It was time for the school’s fourth annual Valentine’s Day Book Exchange.
“It’s becoming quite a tradition,” said Andrea Soleiman, a co-chair of the Pound Ridge Elementary PTO’s Reading Committee, which oversees the event along with help from PRES librarian Rina Baldo. “It’s growing and growing. This year we have about 300 kids participating.”
The way the Book Exchange works is this: In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, the students are asked to fill out a form and indicate their favorite genre of book, such as mystery, romance, thriller, sports, and science. The forms are placed in a in a pink Valentine-festooned box (one for each grade) and then, much like a Secret Santa gift exchange, each student gets to draw a name from the box.
The student is then encouraged to find a like-new book from home, place it in a large red envelope that the school provides, and give it to the student whose name they drew from the box.
“They write out a card to the person they are giving the book to,” said Soleiman. “Then they go home and pick out a book. No one has to buy anything.”
This year, a piece of candy and a bookmark were given out to all the participants as a way to further promote the Book Exchange.
“The kids get really excited,” Soleiman said. “They run down here [to the library] as soon as they are through signing in.”
While the event has the gift-giving aspect of its Valentine’s Day theme, PRES principal Tim Gembka said it serves another more important purpose.
““It’s a great opportunity for students to share their interests and love of reading with each other,” he said. “This event is so successful each year that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hold it again.”
First-grader Riley Benson, 6, received the book, “Amelia Bedelia” in the Exchange.
“I like to read and she is one of my favorites,” Riley said.
Thomas Bisordi, 6, also in the first grade, said this wasn’t his first Book Exchange.
“I did it last year,” he said. “The part where you get the book is fun. Giving a book away is OK, but not as much fun.”
Third-grader Katie Cristiano, 8, is a big fan of the event.
“I think it’s really cool,” she said, clutching the copy of “The Foolish Tortoise” that she received in the Exchange. “I really love reading. It’s my favorite hobby.”
Katie’s classmate, Lyla Loria, 8, summed up what she thought was the true spirit of the Book Exchange.
“I like that we can get new books, but I like it because they’re from our friends,” she said.