Annual book swap creates reading excitement for students and staff

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Swap that thing!

“This is our third annual book swap, and the kids started bringing books in on March 4,” stated Chatfield Elementary School (CES) paraprofessional Kristie Kayfes.

She is the organizer of the CES book swap, set this year for May 10, that allows students to recycle their well-loved books and trade them for new reads.

She elaborated, “Allowing the kids to exchange books they’ve already read that might be below their levels for books they get to select without any influence at their current level – and being excited about it – helps them to want to read more. Recycled books during this book swap allow students to pick on their own and go back to the classroom and share with their peers the selections they have made. It also sparks conversations with peers that maybe they brought in that book or have read it.”

Teacher Kirsten Armstrong agreed with Kayfes, “The more books we can get in kids’ hands, the more they are likely to read. This swap gives a chance to get ‘new’ books at no cost to them, but also gets them excited to pick out their own books from a huge assortment, and they get excited to read.”

She added that many families, when doing spring cleaning, get rid of books their children have outgrown.

“This book swap allows other students to benefit from used books, as they are able to pick out books at no cost to them,” Armstrong reiterated. “Last year, so many books were donated that every student, whether they brought in books to donate or not, was able to pick out at least one book. And there’s a huge range – something for everyone. Kristie takes time to sort and organize all the donated books so that students know what reading level the books are leveled at.”

Kayfes collects books all year round to place on the tables during the book swap. “I receive books of all levels. The most-needed levels every year are our early readers and our high-level readers. People can donate all year long, and the sooner, the better so that I have time to level them. I do collect them all year, so I would like people to know that they can send them to the elementary school office with my name on them anytime. Instead of donating to Savers after your garage sale, I would be happy to level them for the next swap. The community can also help keep the little libraries around town stocked.”

This year, Kayfes placed collection tubs in each wing. The kids took books to their homeroom teacher for donation credit, and then placed them in the tub for her to collect at any time and level.

“Children can bring in as many books as they want, but can only trade up to ten,” she said. “I have several families that amazingly enough spring clean every year and donate 50 to 90 books.”

Kayfes most enjoys the faces on the students when they see the amount of books to choose from. She also loves hearing their sequels, and the “oohs” and “aahs” when they find books they are excited about.

“I always make sure to put out extra donations,” Kayfes said. “It’s my goal to get at least one book in each child’s hand. Last year, I accomplished that with all students in kindergarten through third, and I always make sure to get the students down to get books that aren’t able to bring any in. They are always so excited.”

Kayfes said she hopes to get students excited about reading, and for them to be proud and happy to make their own book selections.

Teachers such as Armstrong also enjoy the opportunity to update their classroom libraries during the book swap. She noted, “As a teacher, I love seeing the excitement as kids walk into the room and see the huge assortment of books. They go to different areas and spend time browsing or reading covers to pick out books. To see kids get excited about books that they can take home and read is so wonderful!”

Armstrong also pointed out she and her fellow teachers are also given the chance to choose books so their classroom libraries can grow.

“Other books are donated to the Action 100 tubs and mini free libraries around town,” Armstrong added.

Kayfes observed that following the past two swaps, she’s witnessed as many smiling teachers holding books as she has students who are pleased to have a new read in hand.

“After school and all the students have shopped, I hand any teacher that wants to come shop a box or two and help them fill it up for their classrooms,” she said. “I also save a few boxes to keep the little libraries filled over the summer. Teachers get just as excited as the students. Especially our newer teachers because it’s a big cost out of pocket to grow their libraries, so this is an awesome thing for students and teachers to benefit from.”

 Armstrong acknowledged, “There is a lot of volunteer time donated to the swap for it to be organized and well-run. A huge ‘thank you’ to Kristie and donating stores and families. It couldn’t happen without all of their generosity.”

Kayfes concluded, “I accept books all year long, and I would like to thank the community for their continued support of this exciting event. I couldn’t do this without the support of the community and school. I’m very grateful that it’s embraced by all. I just love seeing the students’ and staff’s excitement every year.”

 Books may be sent to Chatfield Elementary School with students – marked care of Kristie Kayfes. For more information, contact Kayfes at