Book fair organizers spread wealth of knowledge to La.

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GROTON — A national publisher of children’s books and local book fair sponsors have joined forces to help an elementary school in storm-ravaged Louisiana replenish its library, which was destroyed by Hurricane Rita.

“I’m originally from Louisiana, and the school we are helping out is about an hour from where my parents live,” said Marian Mattison, cochairman of the twice annual Florence Roche Elementary School Book Fair. “Also, I had an acquaintance who worked at the school. The schools effected by Hurricane Rita have not gotten the same level of support as schools have that were hit earlier by Hurricane Katrina.”

Florence Roche adopted the Dozier Elementary School, in Erath, La., which was virtually destroyed by Hurricane Rita in September 2005, said Mattison.

Since then, teachers and students have been sharing space in buildings at another school district 15 miles away from their own. Hopes are high that they will be able to move back to Erath in the near future.

As a result of the storm, which hit portions of southwestern Louisiana and eastern Texas, the Dozier School suffered so much damage that what was left had to be gutted and the school completely rebuilt.

Among the damage was Dozier’s library. Administrators first thought many of its volumes could be saved, but were later told they all had to be thrown out due to water damage that could have contaminated them with dangerous pollutants.

That was when Florence Roche stepped in.

“We first talked to people from the Dozier School in the fall,” said Mattison. The contact person for the Louisiana school was Dozier principal Elizabeth Gremillion.

Once filled in on the Dozier school’s literary needs, Mattison and fellow book fair Cochairman Laura Bruno decided to use the biannual fair to help.

Sponsored by the Scholastic Book Company, the book fair does not deal in used books, but only new products.

According to Mattison, the company delivers thousands of volumes of its latest titles to the school in a dozen large cases that open up into instant display shelves packed with fiction, nonfiction and reference books.

“Scholastic provides the books for free, and we split whatever profits we make with the company,” said Mattison. “And they’re really good about sending appropriate books for our age group.”

Books at the fair are targeted for children in kindergarten through fourth grade.

When asked just how many books will be available at the fair, Mattison could only guess.

Held the week of April 10, the book fair will be set up at the Florence Roche Elementary School from Monday to Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to noon. A special family night is also scheduled for April 11 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Patrons who would like to contribute to the Dozier School library can choose a book from a preprinted wish list at a special 10 percent discount. Bookplates will be available for those donors who want to place their names inside the cover of the books they purchase.

Cash donations will also be accepted and will be matched by Scholastic as well as such groups as the National Center for Family Literacy and Toys for Tots. In addition, Florence Roche will be eligible for free books equal in value to half the matching funds that it will then donate to the Dozier School.

Already, the school has sent $800 worth of books to the Dozier School, and Mattison said organizers hope to raise another $3,000.

When asked if there were any other plans afoot to help the Dozier School, Mattison could not say.

“Right now the focus is on helping out the school’s library,” Mattison said.

Recommending that those interested in coming to the fair avoid the times scheduled during school hours, Mattison hoped that the special family night hours, with special guest appearance by Curious George, would be the big draw.

“I hope that family night becomes a real community event,” said Mattison.