College works to inspire love of reading with book fair
By Jacob deNobel and Times Staff Writer
Mar 06, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Every year for the past 18 year, Carroll Community College opens its doors to the public and allows attendees to grab some knowledge on their way out at the annual Penguin Random House Book Fair.
The event, held Saturday at the college, will feature more than 2,000 books for sale for 20 percent off the face value. The books are brand-new and include nearly every genre, from classic literature to science fiction to nonfiction, with options for readers of every level.
Steve Wantz, executive director of the Carroll Community College Foundation, said the fair is the second-largest fundraiser for the school behind the Starry Night gala, but it serves the public as well.
"One of the ideas behind the book fair is that we want to celebrate literacy to create a love and passion of reading in people of all ages," Wantz said. "We want to particularly target younger kids. We understand that the key to so much success is based on having a sound foundation on reading."
To support that mission, the fair will have a free book area, and each child attendee can go home with a book for free.
"This is an important fundraiser for us, but when you get down to it, the mission is creating a passion for reading," Wantz said. "And if you give a child an opportunity to read a book they might not otherwise have, who knows what that will do to spark an interest in learning and taking off to a new level."
The money raised goes directly toward funding student scholarships. According to Sylvia Blair, Carroll Community College's executive assistant to the president, the book fair has raised more than $490,000 since it began in 1997. The event was created as a partnership between the Carroll Community College Foundation — a nonprofit established to aid students in attending the college — and Random House, turned Penguin Random House after a 2013 merger, and one of the county's largest employers with a distribution center in Westminster.
Wantz said he expects around 4,000 attendees will help raise around $45,000 at the event. He said fundraisers like this are needed now more than ever.
"This has been, in my time here at Carroll, the greatest time of need I have ever seen," Wantz said. "Just getting access to having a college education is something that a lot of our students are really striving to do so, and we need to make sure it's affordable and accessible to everyone who has a desire to succeed."
Wantz said the trouble started with the economic recession that began in 2008, but its effects are still felt among students in need.
"Quite frankly, the people who did not have the capacity to afford college never really saw a rebound," Wantz said. "The economy has bounced back, but the people at the very entry level are left out of that."
The event will feature readings by British children's author Sally Lloyd-Jones, who has written "The Jesus Storybook Bible" and "The House That's Your Home," and Kate Alcott, who has written pieces of historical fiction including "A Touch of Stardust" and "The Daring Ladies of Lowell." Each author will make presentations and hold book signings.
Before the public opening of the book fair, the college will host an afternoon of senior activities from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday. These events include health and wellness tips and resources, discussions on amateur photography and local author and Westminster Common Council president Robert Wack's new book "Time Bomber."
On Friday night the fair will also host screenings of the Disney animated film "Big Hero 6," loosely adapted from the Marvel comic book.
Throughout the fair, the college will be selling food in the concessions area. Wantz said all of the money raised by food sales will go toward the school's food locker, which provides meals for students in need.
"We found we literally have students who are not thriving from a learning perspective, and it came down to the fact that a lot of our students are truly not able to afford food," Wantz said. "They're coming to college without proper nutrition, which is affecting learning and affecting success."
In all, Wantz said the book fair would not be possible if it weren't for the volunteers who come to campus every year to help put together the event. Wantz said more than 225 people volunteer their time to make sure the fair goes off without a hitch.