Initially, the goal was for each of the more than 300 students at Immanuel Lutheran School to donate a book for a book drive.
Several students at the Seymour school wound up bringing in multiple new and gently used books, and the result was more than 1,000 collected.
Those books have been donated to the Jackson County Clothing Center in Seymour, which will distribute the books to kids at the store at 207 N. Pine St.
“That means more to me than the actual learning that takes place in this building,” said Sandra Franke, an Immanuel junior high language arts teacher who helped organize the book drive.
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“That’s their character. That shows their Christian witness,” she said. “When they go out in the world, we want them to be givers and to be willing to volunteer and to give back blessings as we are directed to in the Bible. That just makes my heart open up.”
Franke said Joan Roth, director of the clothing center, was appreciative of the donation.
“When I phoned Mrs. Roth, she was very excited to hand out books,” Franke said. “She said any time they do get books at all, they fly off the shelves, and they don’t often get children’s books at all, so it was like a path that was meant to be.”
The book drive, with a pirate theme of “Reading is an adventure for everyone,” was a new element to the school’s participation in the National Accelerated Reader Challenge, which ran from Jan. 26 to March 6. During that time, students read books and took Accelerated Reader tests.
For scoring 100 percent or passing a test, students were awarded Book Bucks to buy books and school supplies in the school’s Accelerated Reader store.
Franke said the items are donated or purchased with grant money from Thrivent and GenerationOn. Teachers have even used bonus dollars they earn from the book company Scholastic to buy items.
The store started last year after a request from a student and became a service project for eighth-graders.
“It has really just taken off,” Franke said. “Once a quarter, eighth-graders organize and open up the store, and they run it. They are the clerks, and younger students in the building come in and purchase things with Book Bucks.”
Eighth-graders use laptops to create posters to track inventory for the store and make a chart of profits. They also learn math, economics and leadership skills.
“I love the life skills the eighth-graders are learning,” Franke said. “I try to incorporate as much of that as we can.”
The store and challenge have been good for the whole school, she said.
“I’m glad the eighth-graders have taken control and ownership of the store because they are helping the younger ones in the building increase their love of reading,” Franke said.
“It has just sparked an interest in independent reading so much. In the classroom, we have them read this chapter, but we want them also to develop this love of reading on their own, and I think the AR Challenge has provided a little bit of motivation and incentive to do that. That’s been awesome.”
Franke also was happy to see the school come together for the book drive. She was assisted by teachers Debra Lambert and Charlotte Elkins, who are all on a committee that helps run the school’s library.
Franke said this is the first time they remember the school conducting a book drive.
“The students know that the books they bring in go to children who don’t have the opportunity to have new books,” Franke said. “We’re so blessed here at Immanuel that we wanted to bless others.”
Students were rewarded with a visit by Australian author James Phelan, whose books are frequently checked out at Immanuel.
It was supposed to be a convocation for the whole school, but Immanuel missed that week because of the weather. Students and parents were notified that Phelan still planned on visiting Feb. 20, and several of them showed up to listen to him talk about his books.
Among the students at the convocation were fifth-grader Addison Bumbleburg and seventh-grader Kendall Schaefer. Both of them contributed to the book drive.
“I got some from home and brought them in,” Addison said. “You could have gone out and bought them at the store and donated them, but most of them were books that I didn’t read anymore.”
Kendall said she and her brother, Cole, donated 15 books.
“Most of the books I brought in were little Bible story books with a bunch of pictures and stuff,” she said. “I already read them, and I have a Bible at home, so I don’t really need them anymore. I wanted to share the word about God to other kids.”
Both girls said it was good for the school to do a good deed.
“I think it helps them feel generous and be happy that they did something good, and it makes them feel really good that they can do that and see other people happy to read books,” Addison said. “It helps other kids so they can have a chance to read and see if they like to read books and maybe find out if they want to write books.”
They hope the book recipients discover the importance of reading.
“I think that it’s good to start reading at a younger age so you can get your mind around the bigger words and learn more vocabulary,” Kendall said.
“You want to make sure you have an expanded vocabulary,” Addison said, “and you want to be able to dream about and picture what those books are saying.”