Dawn Hochsprung's life was cut short by the killer at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Now her cousin, Melanie Bunch of Hamburg, wants to make sure Hochsprung's legacy continues to shine.
As principal of Sandy Hook, Hochsprung had a passion for literacy. To light a love of reading in the hearts of her students, she would dress up as a book fairy, wearing a light-up gown and crown. With her lights twinkling, she visited classrooms and, using her star-shaped scepter, granted children the gift of extra reading time.
When the gunman entered the school in 2012, Hochsprung leapt from a conference room and rushed at the shooter in an effort to protect her students.
Years later, Hochsprung's cousin heard a story on talk radio about the country's high illiteracy rates. A light bulb went off.
"Everyone needs a book fairy," Bunch thought.
So she created one — a light-up figurine similar to the popular Elf on the Shelf that children can keep by their beds. Children can turn on the Book Fairy's lighted dress to signal that they are ready for a new book. Parents can then grant their wish with a visit to the library or bookstore. It can also be illuminated during story time, or used as a nightlight.
An accompanying book by Bunch tells the story of the magical fairy.
Bunch hopes the Book Fairy will inspire children to read more, and build good reading skills and habits. She has heard a great deal of interest from teachers and librarians, she said.
"Not every child has a family that encourages reading. Teachers have a lot of influence," she said.
The product is currently available by pre-order through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that ends next week. The money will be used for manufacturing, package design, order fulfillment and other expenses. Bunch is still raising funds through traditional investors as well, and said she will take out a loan if that's what it takes to bring the product to market. She hopes to donate $1 per Book Fairy sale to local and national literacy groups.
"I would really love for my cousin's legacy to be that of an inspirational educator, rather than the principal who was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre," she said.