Local teacher tells kids to “trick or read”

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MIDDLEBURY — Last Saturday afternoon, while others in the neighborhood were readying bowls of fun-sized Snickers bars for the impending wave of trick-or-treaters, Sloan Weinberg lined up four boxes of books on her porch in Buttolph Acres in Middlebury.
For the seventh year running, Sloan and her husband Andy, both teachers, and their two daughters, Grace and Jade, handed out books instead of candy to their Halloween visitors. Between the four boxes, Sloan estimated that she had around 600 books — a number that she hoped would more than cover the trick-or-treaters that night.
“I typically have about 50 to 100 left over for the next year,” she said.
The tradition began when the family lived in Illinois, where Grace, now 10, received a toothbrush at a dentist’s house one Halloween. This sparked Sloan’s interest and got her thinking about what she could give out other than candy.
“As a teacher, I thought it would be a great idea to give something to promote education, and I came up with the idea of a book,” she said.
At first, many (including Andy) questioned the logistics and the expense of her plan. The family lived in a popular trick-or-treating neighborhood, and some years their house got more than 1,000 visitors on Halloween.
But seven years and more than 7,000 books later, no one can say it hasn’t been successful.
“It’s grown on me,” said Andy.
If she starts collecting books right after Halloween, Sloan can usually gather almost enough for the next year. When her students buy books in monthly book orders, she gets points toward free books for herself. And for a couple of years, Scholastic even donated books to her cause.
She usually has to spend around $100 of her own money for additional books, but said even this isn’t much more than people in high-traffic neighborhoods spend on Halloween candy.
And the family has built something of a tradition around giving out books. They always eat taco soup and brownies as a special dinner, and afterward Sloan sits outside handing out books until the last trick-or-treaters have come through or until the books have run out. This year Grace went trick-or-treating with friends, and even though Andy offered to take seven-year-old Jade trick-or-treating, she insisted on spending several hours handing books out in her witch costume.
“I’m trying to persuade her to go trick-or-treating, but instead she wants to stay here with me and pass out books,” said Sloan.
This is the family’s second year in Middlebury. While the Buttolph Acres trick-or-treating scene is not nearly as busy as their old neighborhood in Illinois, on Saturday Sloan made sure to have more books on hand than she would actually need, just in case.
She also made sure to have books of many different reading levels on hand, from picture books through early-teen chapter books. The books were separated into boxes so that she could easily pick out an appropriate one as each child approached the porch.
Most of the trick-or-treaters on Saturday approached cautiously at first, confused by the obvious lack of candy. After the initial surprise wore off, though, most warmed to the idea of receiving a book.
“They’re usually very appreciative and very excited,” said Sloan. “I think partially because it’s something different.”
The children were excited, but the parents tended to be even more so, since this was one gift that wouldn’t give their children cavities or a sugar high.
“I’m just trying to promote literacy,” said Sloan. “Hopefully they’ll go home and eat their candy and read a good book.”
Watch the video for more coverage of this story.

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