A familiar site at the annual NJEA Convention is the long line that snakes through the aisles and leads to Nicky Fifth’s neighborhood. Teachers stand in lines that can last over an hour while a former NJEA member and award-winning New Jersey author, Lisa Funari-Willever, hands out bags filled with new releases from her Nicky Fifth chapter book series.
For the past five years, Lisa has released her new books at the NJEA Convention, exclusively for New Jersey educators. Why do they wait in such long lines? They wait because they want to bring familiar, relevant materials that can easily be incorporated into multiple subject areas back to their classes. And the best part is that it’s all free.
Thanks to the generosity of partners like NJEA, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, Lisa has provided New Jersey educators with over 200,000 free books.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. Weeks of logistics with tractor-trailer companies and freight movers, lots of upgrades for the booths, and then there’s the employees! Actually, there are no issues with employees because Lisa doesn’t have any. When you walk by Nicky Fifth’s neighborhood, you won’t see employees, you’ll see a team. Lisa’s husband and kids, parents, brother, sister-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, and good friends—many of whom are NJEA members themselves. They work long hours moving inventory and filling the bags that end up in classrooms across the state.
This year, funding fell through for Book #11 in the Nicky Fifth series, Decisions, Decisions, which would introduce readers to medicine and the dangers of opioids, on an age-appropriate level. While Lisa was disappointed, she is working hard to secure funding the bring that book to the 2019 convention.
In the meantime, there is always a Plan B. Thanks, again, to her very generous partners, in particular, NJEA, she will provide free Nicky Fifth books for second- to sixth-graders and teacher’s guides for their teachers, for every school that schedules a school author visit. That’s hundreds of free books, delivered on the day of the visit, for every school she visits.