The students at PS 148 in East Elmhurst may be too young to know who Punky Brewster is. But that didn’t stop them from gathering around a giant red chair where Soleil Moon Frye, the actress who portrayed the popular television character from the 1980s, read the first book to be opened in the school’s brand-new library last Friday.
Frye, a “mommy ambassador” with Target, came to cut the ribbon on the $200,000 facility built by the retail corporation’s School Library Makeover program and The Heart of America Foundation.
The renovated library features 2,000 new books and technology upgrades, including new iPads. Target also provided seven books for each student to take home following the unveiling celebration.
Along with the library, Target opened a food pantry that will provide more than 22 pounds of fresh produce and staple foods to students and families as part of the Target Meals for Minds program.
For Frye, a mother of two with a third on the way, school libraries are a key to student success.
“Education is very important to me as a mom,” she said. “My mom was a single mom and reading was a very important part of our lives and my children’s lives.”
PS 148 was the second library opening Frye has attended with Target, after one earlier this year in Los Angeles.
“When you see the kids’ eyes light up, it’s amazing,” she said. “It’s amazing to know they’ve been given the gift of knowledge. It’s an incredible thing and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
The Target School Library Makeover Program and the Meals for Minds program worked together to renovate the library and open the pantry at the school, where 100 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Frye said it was important for the two to work together because child hunger is tied to academic performance.
“It’s a lot harder to study when you’re starving,” she said.
Volunteers — employees from Target stores all over the New York area — were present to put the finishing touches on the library and welcomed the students, who stepped into the renovated room with mouths agape.
Nancy Birson, PS 148’s principal, said the new library channeled the already-existing excitement in the school.
“There is always energy in this building,” she said. “But today, it is palpable.”