PTA gives the gift of reading

Annual donation drive collects new, used books to benefit young readers

`It's a big motivator'

February 13, 2002|By Laura Shovan | Laura Shovan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Kathy Tomaszewski doesn't have room to walk in her basement, but where else could she store 7,000 books?

She's been collecting boxes filled with picture books, early readers and novels since last month, and her basement is filled to capacity.

A PTA member at Ilchester Elementary School in Ellicott City, Tomaszewski is the chairwoman for the school's annual "Give the Gift of Reading" book drive.

"I lose so much time down in the basement sorting these books because I find all sorts of things that [are] interesting," she said.

Yesterday, Tomaszewski dropped off 1,300 new and used books at Deep Run Elementary in Elkridge. Many will be used by the after-school reading program run by teacher Melissa Allnutt.

"It's a big motivator," Allnutt said. "It's something new and exciting. It's not the same old books."

The book drive began in 1997, when Tomaszewski's idea for a service project was adopted as a PTA goal.

Initial beneficiary

More than 1,000 books were given to children at Thomas Johnson Elementary in Baltimore as holiday gifts. That school was the only beneficiary of the program in its first two years.

In 1999, other schools in Howard County were invited to participate. That year nearly 3,000 books were collected, with all of them going to schools and programs in Howard County.

Now in its fifth year, the book drive includes nine elementary schools and one middle school, Elkridge Landing.

By last week, 7,000 books had been collected, with two schools yet to drop off their donations.

"The numbers are amazing," Tomaszewski said. "I hear from parents and kids throughout the year that they're saving their books in anticipation of our collection. They're very grateful for the opportunity to donate these books and have another child enjoy them.

"I think the biggest benefit is the ability to have reading material available to children so they are able to meet the county's goals of reading during their free time," Tomaszewski said.

Most of the donated books will be used for free reading, either in the classroom or at home.

Allnutt, whose reading program includes more than 30 first- and second-graders, said, "We try to make [reading] as much fun as we can."

She plans to use books for a reading corner and will let her pupils pick books to take home and keep.

"They're so excited about having their own books," she said. "It's an added incentive for them" to read.

Adult books are given to pupil personnel workers, who hold a book sale as a fund-raiser.

Proceeds from the sale are used for a variety of services - such as taxi vouchers, eyeglasses and school supplies - for children who need assistance.

But students and schools receiving the books are not the only ones benefiting from the program.

Sue Nickles, assistant principal at Waverly Elementary in Ellicott City, works with the school's student government. The book drive is one of its regular service projects. Four officers of the student council scheduled dates, made posters and sorted 753 books.

People care

Anne Skomba, 9, is secretary of Waverly's student council. "I was happy to see that lots of people thought about the other kids who need books," she said. "People in the Waverly community really care."

Student Council President Cole Adams, 10, said, "It was fun to find out that there were so many books. It surprised us all."

Said Tomaszewski: "It's very satisfying to see books in perfectly good condition being recycled. They're getting a second chance to be enjoyed by other children. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for [students] to participate in community service."

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