On Halloween night in 2019, the choice was “Book or Treat,” a new Galveston twist on the traditional Halloween greeting. Instead of “Trick or Treat,” the new greeting proved to be popular with both kids and parents.
Offering books to babies and toddlers as an option to candy was the idea of Kathy Machol, a longtime board member of SMART Family Literacy. As a project of SMART, whose mission focus is early childhood and health literacy, Machol began offering board books to the little ones three years ago.
“I was pleasantly surprised that all the books were taken and how excitedly kids were running to parents exclaiming they had a book,” Machol said. “Most didn’t even look at the bowl of candy.”
Last year, SMART board member Heidi Coggeshall set up a Book or Treat station at her Galveston home. Coggeshall offered picture books and chapter books.
“I had 250 books and 300 pieces of candy,” Coggeshall said. “By 7:30 p.m., all books were taken!”
No matter their ages, children were enthusiastic about receiving books.
“I could see the smiles on parents’ faces when their children chose books,” Coggeshall said.
Even with recent changes in advice from health experts, families are anticipating the fun of Saturday, Oct. 31. Going outside just before dark, walking around neighborhoods, seeing other families in costumes, and donning masks are normal things that are still safe to do. If a table is set up outside and a resident stands several feet behind it, visitors can approach but remain distanced from the giver. Even small voices calling out “Thank you!” can be heard from six feet away.
In 2020, SMART has donated 25,000 children’s books in Galveston County by collaborating with licensed child care centers and elementary campuses.
Dominic Etienne, Board President, hopes to raise funds with the Book or Treat campaign to buy books for distribution this fall. October is a big month for giving books and teaching about vegetables, especially pumpkins.
“Since March, SMART has seen an increased need for new books in homes,” Etienne said. “We know books can make a difference in the development of young minds, and reading leads to later success. This year with children learning at home, Home libraries are more important than ever.”
Also, providing books as a treat option includes all children in the holiday, even those who cannot have sugar due to food allergies, diabetes concerns, or other health issues.
New protocols for handling books means SMART will give only new books for Book or Treat. “At SMART sponsored stations, givers will wear face masks, provide hand sanitizer, and handle books with disinfectant wipes,” said Assistant Director Amy Musick.
To support literacy, you can sponsor a Book or Treat Halloween night station or an early childhood classroom library. SMART will provide 25 books for every $50 donation. Visit www.smartfamilyliteracy.org to make a donation and to learn more about SMART educational programs for kids, parents and educators. Email email@example.com to learn where to find Book or Treat giving stations.