They ‘wrote the book’ on giving

Oregon MS students collect 3,532 books for children in need

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Reading is knowledge, and the students at Oregon Middle School are giving that knowledge to children in need, 3,532 times over. That’s how many books the school collected last week for The Book Fairies, a Freeport-based nonprofit that supplies donated books to children in need. Of the books collected, just under half of them came from Jennifer Taylor’s classroom.

Taylor’s students, only 10 in total, are part of the Academics Career Essential Skills (ACES) Program, and collected 1,532 books for The Book Fairies. But they did more than just collect books; they also organized them for the school librarian Kelly Lukemire, who organized the book drive.

“We sorted the books into piles and then tabulated the books,” said Jake Caruso, one of Taylor’s eighth-grade students. “Tabulating is where you sort things out and count them.”

Taylor’s class collected more books than any other class in the school, thus crowning them the “book drive champions.” All of their hard work earned them what was supposed to be a donut and bagel breakfast—but Taylor took that a step further by cooking her class chocolate chip pancakes, eggs, sausage, and more. The full meal was served to the kids by Brian Lake, principal, Oregon Middle School.

Taylor said she was impressed by the children’s commitment and that’s why she took their reward a step further.

“They walked into a big surprise this morning. They got the works today,” she said.

Lukemire said she was pleasantly surprised that Taylor and her class took the initiative to go above and beyond collecting books for the book drive. Taylor even created a Facebook post asking friends to donate used books so they could be used towards the class’ tally. 

“I think Mrs. Taylor saw this as an opportunity to not only help the people who need these books, but she also saw how beneficial it would be for them [the class] to be a part of this,” Lukemire surmised.

The class not only learned about hard work and tabulation, they also learned about the gift of giving, something that fit perfectly into the school’s November monthlong theme of gratitude. Lianna Pappas was one such student, who gained a sense of personal pride from the challenge and what collecting the books means for children in need. She worked with her mother to figure out which books she wanted to donate and in the end, wound up bringing a big bag of used books to school.

Once The Book Fairies gets the books, they’ll be distributed to hospitals, homeless shelters, schools, and even laundromats in low-income areas. For Caruso, the desire to help other children was his biggest motivation.

“Other kids don’t have anything, so we want to help them with what they’re going through,” he said.

Lake spoke about the importance of reading and said that by collecting used books, Taylor’s class—and the rest of Oregon Middle School—would be providing children in need with access to the tools they need for success.

“When we look at students and their ability to succeed in life, one of the criteria that we look at is having books. We do these ‘equity’ kind of surveys and one of the questions is, Who grew up in a house with 100 books and take a step forward if you did,’ and you look behind you and there’s all these people in the back. Just having the access to books at home, having something to read, that can predict their future. Just giving kids the ability to pick up a book and get lost in it—that’s what it’s about,” he said.

Lukemire not only learned from the experience, she took inspiration from it. Any book The Book Fairies won’t accept will go toward a little lending library, which Lukemire plans to put it in the middle school library. Students will be invited to take books home, read them, and even keep them. They’re also invited to bring in books they don’t read anymore. As for doing it again, Lukemire said she’ll organize another book drive next November. The number collected, 3,532, is a tough number to beat, but Oregon Middle School students are up to the challenge.

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