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Columbia Missourian

Retired MU professor offers books instead of candy on Halloween

By Amanda Becker
October 30, 2013 | 6:09 p.m. CDT
Gary Fox, 83, gives out books on Halloween instead of candy. He has been running this "Trick or Read" program for three years.

COLUMBIA — Children's books swamped Gary Fox's kitchen countertops Wednesday.

On Halloween night, they will all disappear — more than 100 of them — handed out to costumed children as part of Fox's "Trick or Read" tradition.

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When neighborhood children dressed as witches or superheroes come to the retired MU professor's door in Fairview, they open their bags and he slips in a copy of "The Cat in the Hat" or "Cinderella" or "Aladdin."

"Candy is gone in 30 minutes," Fox, 83, said. "Books will be passed on and shared."

He started the tradition about three years ago and estimates he has given away dozens of books over the years. He acquires them from secondhand bookstores and assorted donations.

"This one woman approached me, and I followed her to her car. When she opened her trunk, I saw she had 45 books for me," he said.

After retiring from MU, Fox spent four years reading to preschool students at Derby Ridge and Parkade elementary schools as a volunteer.

During his classroom visits, Fox brought books into the classrooms for the children to keep and take home.

"One time, I was reading the titles and as I said 'The Princess,' this little 3-year-old girl yelled 'That's mine!'" Fox said, reminiscing about his class visits.

Fox became a fixture in the classrooms during his time at Derby Ridge and Parkade, so much that the kids affectionately called him "Grandpa Gary."

He is no longer a volunteer at these schools, so he spreads his love of books through Halloween trick-or-treating.

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.