Martha’s Vineyard bookstores lend hands to Island schools


Two creative programs sponsored by the Island’s principal bookstores are bringing additional life and excitement to reading for the students at Vineyard schools.

Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven has put hundreds of books on school library shelves and in the backpacks of young readers as a result of its two-week Book Fair promotion in May. According to Susan Savory, a whirling dervish of the printed word and the Bunch of Grapes book buyer, Island schools continue to benefit from the promotion held four months ago.

“We have one big annual event at this point that began last year with seven Island schools, including the high school,” Ms. Savory said. “We do it in-store. It supplements a fall program offered in school by Scholastic, a leading educational publisher. Everyone purchasing in the store can designate a school and that school earns a 20 percent cash donation from us or a 25 percent credit.

“The program is great for schools. Librarians post a wish list in the store. We made posters and a notice at the cash register, and online, explaining the program. It’s been very successful. Ninety percent of purchasers designated a school, including people who don’t live, or even visit here, who participate through our website.

“All of the schools opted to take the credit. Some use the credit to buy books, hundred of books at this point, and some use credits as $5 gift certificates as incentives and rewards for students. Most of the schools are still working off credits earned last May.

“We kicked off the event with a party at the bookstore. Three authors attended: Kate Feiffer, Greg Mone, and Coleen Murtagh Paratore. Schools typically have to pay for author visits, but we are able to have the publishers underwrite them.”

Across the Island, Susan Mercier, general manager of Edgartown Books, has teamed up with Connie Leuenberger, Edgartown school language arts teacher, to relaunch a program known as “Galley Books” which provides Edgartown school students with the opportunity to read and review books about to be published, which are in galley form, undergoing final proofreading and primping before publication.

“Galley” is a term long used in newspaper, magazine, and book publishing to denote the first uncorrected typesetting of a work, usually presented in one long single column without page breaks, art, illustrations, or binding. The galley proof was used to edit and to proofread the work so that corrections could be made before the finished production phase began. Editors and proofreaders assigned to “reading galley” have been known to groan and whimper as a five- or 10-foot roll of single column type landed in their In basket.

Today, however, galley books are a much more pleasant experience, presented as virtually finished copies, bound and illustrated, awaiting only final proofreading and the addition of author notes, credits, and biography. The term is now also used to describe “advance,” “review,” or “reader” copies, such as those often provided to newspapers, including The Times, for review prior to publication.

That is part of their allure to young readers, Ms. Leuenberger said. “There is something exciting about reading a book that hasn’t been published yet. To be the first to read it,” she said in a telephone conversation with The Times last week. Ms. Mercier works with publishers to provide advance reader copies (ARCs) for Edgartown School readers.

“We did this program with the Edgartown School some years ago. We had a hiatus for a couple of years and we are relaunching it October 10 in Connie’s seventh and eighth grade classes,” Ms. Mercier said.

Ms. Leuenberger’s motivation is simple, and her process is to build learning and achievement, book by book. “The more kids read, the better they do in all their academic work,” she said. “I have the kids read independently and I encourage them to read these galley book advance copies. These are new books. No one has them read before. That provides an opportunity for writing reviews, which we can publish in the school newspaper.”

“What motivates kids to read? Subjects that interest them, what’s hot, what other kids are reading and talking about. We have book clubs in school. We talk about who’s reading what. Kids value peer recommendations.

“We want them to feel comfortable taking risks and having a choice motivates them. Now we have to assign some books but to say we’re all going to read the same book this term is difficult. They want to be able to have choices. We steer them toward selections appropriate to their age level. Kids are more likely to want to read books their peers like and recommend than what we tell them to read.”

At Edgartown Books, Ms. Mercier said, “I’m hoping to have 40 books to start. I’ve been saving them up. I truly love this [program]. It gets kids out of a comfort zone, to try something new. In the classroom, I explain how the book business works. Through mentoring programs they can get involved in the store. They may read a book this winter and then see stacks of them in the store next summer. So the program works on several levels.”