First books

By By Paige Fieldsted

By Paige Fieldsted

For many low-income elementary school students, this Christmas meant much more than usual, because first, second and third graders from Mountain View, Parkview and Lincoln elementary schools received their very own books to take home.

One thousand, six hundred books were distributed to 800 students just before Christmas as part of the 5,000 books that were donated by First Book and Cheerios’ “Spoonfuls of Stories.” The remaining 3,400 books will be distributed as they become available.

The books were distributed by the Bennion Center’s America Reads program.

“Our program was chosen as the state recipient; meaning, we will receive 5,000 books by the end of the school year,” said Christie Hill, America Reads program coordinator at the Bennion Center. “For most of these students, these are the first books they have ever owned.”

“It was like an early Christmas,” said Brad Kelstrom, a sophomore social work major and site leader at Mountain View Elementary. “They were so excited to own their own books and to take them home.”

First Book and Cheerios’ “Spoonfuls of Stories” are working together to distribute books to low-income families throughout the nation.

“Even if these students wanted to, they couldn’t read at home. They need these books to get them interested in learning and reading at a young age,” said Elsa Gustavson, a senior political science and gender studies major.

By the end of the school year, 750 elementary students will have received one to three books each and 40 kindergarten students from Neighborhood House will have received 12 books each.

All three schools are Title One schools, meaning at least 90 percent of their students receive free lunches. Most of their families don’t have books at home.

Besides donating books, the Bennion Center’s America Reads program also tutors students at elementary schools. Forty to 50 students are hired through work-study at the U each year.

“I love this job, because it feels like I am giving back. It is really cool to see (the students’) progress and help them learn to read, ” Kelstrom said.

Gustavson said, “Not only are we helping (the students) learn to read, we are role models and examples that they might not have any where else.”