Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund: Comics N’More is latest shop to take part in paper’s annual drive

Owner Chris W.Z. Reader on Tuesday afternoon at Comics N’More in Easthampton.

Owner Chris W.Z. Reader on Tuesday afternoon at Comics N’More in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Owner Chris W.Z. Reader on Tuesday afternoon at Comics N’More in Easthampton.

Owner Chris W.Z. Reader on Tuesday afternoon at Comics N’More in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Comics N’More on Tuesday afternoon in Easthampton.

Comics N’More on Tuesday afternoon in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer

Published: 12-06-2023 3:00 PM

Modified: 12-06-2023 3:46 PM


EASTHAMPTON — Christian W.Z. Reader believes firmly that comics should be for everybody, regardless of their income.

When they were growing up, Reader didn’t have money to spare and would often skip school lunch in high school in order to save any extra dollars they could to buy comics instead.

That steadfast belief in making comics accessible informs the mission of  the bookshop that Reader runs in Easthampton. That was also a key reason that Reader and their team decided to participate this season in the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

“Once I was asked (to participate) and I looked it up, I realized it fits with a lot of the values Comics N’More’s framework tries to espouse. We think comics are for everyone, but there’s a price of admission — it’s expensive,” Reader said. “So we work with libraries, Books Through Bars programs and holiday gift programs to try to put comic books where they wouldn’t be otherwise.”

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers worth $50 to qualifying families for each child from age 1 to 14.

To be eligible for the Toy Fund, families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett, and in Holyoke in Hampden County.

The bookstore, which has operated since 2014, often participates in community initiative like Trees for Hope and Great Falls’ Books Through Bars, along with partnering with other local groups. And after getting so much support from the community around them, Reader wanted to continue to give back as well.

“A big part of it is we have benefited greatly from the support of our community. And when we can do projects like this ... it means the world to me to be part of this community,” Reader said. “So when we do get to go out of our brick and mortar and get to participate in the greater community, we try to take the opportunity whenever we can.”

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The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Blue Marble/Little Blue, 150 Main St., Level 1, Northampton; High Five Books, 141 N. Main St., Florence; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Comics N’ More, 64 Cottage St., Easthampton; Once Upon A Child,1458 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Plato’s Closet, 1472 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 W. Bay Road, Amherst; World Eye Bookshop, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., and 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.