Ellis donates thousands of books

Published 10:29 am Friday, March 2, 2012

Alexa Kraft leans in to get a better look at the story read by Ellis Middle School student Agwa Obang during a visit to the Community Learning Center Thursday afternoon.

Curious George and Lily Lamb came alive on the page at the Community Learning Center Thursday.

Early Childhood and Family Education preschoolers heard stories about George, Lily, Horton the Elephant, Dick and Jane, and more from Ellis Middle School students. Ellis is wrapping up its Martin Luther King Jr. book drive project, with far greater results than anyone could predict.

Ellis Middle School sixth-grader Ana Velazquez, left, reads to Community Learning Center students Adrian Castelan and Amy Ortiz with aid Kathy Neve. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“It’s amazing the community completely supported it,” said Jennifer Gosha, Ellis teacher and Culture Club adviser.

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The Ellis Culture Club crushed its goal to collect 600 new books by March 2 to give to newborns. Students received and donated 952 new books and 1,572 used books as of Tuesday, with many more books coming in. Gosha said another 82 books were donated on Thursday alone.

More than 1,200 of those books will go to Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin, specifically the Women’s Special Care Unit, which means every newborn in Austin will receive one book when they leave the hospital, along with a note for mom from Ellis students on the importance of reading to children early.

“We’re just thrilled to do that for the moms,” said Nancy Hoversten, nurse manager of the Women’s Special Care Unit at MCHS — Austin. Though organizations donate baby blankets, quilts and baby caps, there’s never been a donation to MCHS like this, according to Hoversten. Each newborn for the next two years should receive a book, though Hoversten said she may share books with the hospital’s pediatric unit, which is giving away books to children through a similar program.

A box of books sits in one of the classrooms at the Community Learning Center Thursday afternoon. The books were delivered by the Ellis Equity Team who has just completed a book drive so it could give books to both the CLS and the Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“It gets across the idea of how important it is to read at an early age,” Hoversten said. “When a child gets read to at an early age, they develop a love for books and a respect for reading.”

Another 600 used books went to preschoolers Thursday after Ellis students read to them. Preschoolers will use some of the books and all students will take books home to keep.

“I’m ecstatic,” Amy Baskin, director of community learning said. The CLC never before had a book donation like this and Baskin was excited over what that meant for students. Since students would be able to use these books at school and at home, they would have more access to reading and identifying letters and words, which is crucial at an early age.

“This is how we’re building reading comprehension and vocabulary,” Baskin said.

Ellis students for their part were excited to read to students. Many of them donated books and helped catalog donations as they came in. Ellis sixth-graders were excited to see their efforts pay off in the classroom.

“The younger you start reading, the better education you get,” said sixth-grader Ana Gonzalez.

Sixth-grader Kayen Salinas agrees. Salinas donated one of his favorite children’s books, “The Very Busy Spider,” to the book drive and read that story to several preschoolers Thursday.

“When I was young, my mom always used to read it to me,” he said. “It feels good to get out there and share something with the kids and have them like it just as much as you.”

Gonzalez did the same, as she donated “ABC, I like me,” one of her favorite stories as a child. Gonzalez and Salinas, along with about 170 students in total who volunteered during the book drive, are feeling proud of their accomplishments.

“It was wonderful to see the students so excited,” Gosha said. “They have quite a sense of pride in this.”

In addition, about 30 books will be sent to children in Guatemala as part of Hormel Foods Corp.’s Project Spammy, a charitable initiative to provide nutrition for needy children around the world.

The drive is successful enough that school officials, hospital officials, even students hope Ellis repeats the service project next year.

“I didn’t think we would raise this much,” said Joselyn Huerta, sixth-grader. “Next year we could raise twice as much.”