Literacy Nonprofit The Book Fairies’ Novel Idea: Break Guinness World Record

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Volunteers line up books in a Wyandanch school to break a world record on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (Photo by Tab Hauser)

More than 150 volunteers spent three hours Thursday lining up 31,000 books through two Wyandanch schools in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the longest-ever line of books.

Freeport-based nonprofit The Book Fairies organized the event to raise awareness to their efforts to fight illiteracy by donating literature to underprivileged communities across Long Island,  the New York Metro area, and overseas. The 500 boxes of books were all donated to Wyandanch students and residents at the conclusion of the attempt, which was held on Guinness World Record Day.

“It’s our goal to flood Wyandanch with all of the books that their children need to succeed in school,” Amy Zaslansky, who founded the group in 2012, said while inspecting the books to make sure there were no breaks in the chain. “Price is the No. 1 barrier to book access. And we’re removing that barrier by providing free books.”

The group worked to create a more than 3-mile chain of books winding through the halls and gyms at two connecting elementary schools off Straight Path, thereby breaking record of a 2.6-mile-long line of books. That record was set at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to promote a book drive on International Literacy Day in 2017, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. On Friday, The Book Fairies reported that its line of books stretched nearly four miles.

The first book in the Long Island chain was The Little Engine That Could, which Zaslansky’s father used to read to her as a child and inspired her benevolent spirit. The line included books ranging from those about learning the ABCs to paperbacks about zippers. They ran the gamut from children’s coloring books to novels, with test prep books and dictionaries in the mix, too.

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Volunteers lined books up in the school gym as well as the hall. (Photo by Tab Hauser)

“It is absolutely surreal actually seeing this manifest into reality,” said Dr. Monique Habershaw, principal of the MLK school, who estimated that the event included two libraries worth of books. 

Volunteers — which included those with special needs from local organizations dedicated to helping those with developmental disabilities — were as enthusiastic about supporting the cause as they were the books themselves. During the effort, the halls echoed with talk of needing to re-read books by Shell Silverstein or stock up on those about The Little Mermaid.

“Not only to break the record, but for [Wyandanch] to be able to keep the books is amazing,” said Jeannette Johnson, a first grade teacher in the school district who helped lay some of the books.

Three volunteer monitors were on site to inspect the chain and verify for Guinness that the books laid on the floors of Lafrancis Hardiman and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. elementary schools were all touching. Videographers also recorded the chain and land surveyors were called in to prepare a report on the distance. Guinness will take 12 weeks to verify if the record was set.

Related Story: Book Fairies Marks 2 Millionth Book Donation

Related Story: Bellmore Mom Fighting Illiteracy One Book at a Time

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Volunteers lined the school hallways with books. (Photo by Tab Hauser)