BOLIVAR, TN (WMC) - More than 400 students at one West Tennessee middle school received their very own hard back book to keep, courtesy of one of the nation's best-selling authors and Scholastic Books.
Bolivar Middle School students enjoyed choosing their book to take home during the Free Book Giveaway on Dr. Seuss Day, held in the school gym Friday.
With 12 community leaders present to celebrate the achievements of the school, encourage students to continue their love of reading, and engage with students, it was a day the students couldn't wait to dive into.
"We want to say 'Thank You' to Mr. James Patterson, who gave us this $5,000 out of his very own pocket," BMS Principal Mary Ann Polk announced to the students and guests.
The money came from a grant awarded to the school library, written by librarian Deana Sain. The grant could have been used by the library for whatever the library needed, but Sain wanted the students to be able to have their own book.
"It (the grant) was to do whatever you wanted to do in the library, and I wrote it specifically for them to have their own book," Sain said. "I wanted them to read and pass it on. I wanted them to be life-long learners."
Sain said in the area where their students come from, many parents cannot afford books and most of their students do not have books at home.
"When they first come into school and I ask them what type of books they have at home, many of them can't tell me any books they have at home," Sain said. "I wanted them to be able to take these books, read them, and be able to pass them on to others, swap books, and learn to love reading."
Sain said having books in the home, for many families in the community the school serves, is a luxury that parents cannot afford. That is why it was important for her to put a book in the hands of each child.
Community leaders, ranging from elected officials to retired teachers, were on hand to speak with the students about reading and their goals for life.
"I love to read because it helps increase my vocabulary," Drae Ross, BMS 8th grade student, said.
Ross said he liked reading books about the outdoors, wildlife, and he wanted to have a career working with wildlife.
"It's wonderful to see the students get so excited about reading. I loved to read when I was a kid. I still love to read," Bolivar City Mayor Barrett Stevens said.
The school was awarded the grant at the beginning of the school year. Sain worked for six months after getting the grant to carefully use each dollar to get the best value. However, she also ensured she chose the right books that would fit the students of the school. She carefully chose books that fit the interests, personalities, and culture of the students the school serves.
Polk said the school has worked hard to create a culture of reading and learning that has overcome the stigma of what many outside the school may have come to believe about it.
"I want the community to come in and see what we are doing here. There are great things happening at Bolivar Middle School," Polk said. "We are committed to turning our students into readers."
Scholastic Books chipped in points, in addition to Patterson's monetary grant, which allowed the school to have enough money to provide each child with a hardback book of their own.
"We even had enough books to give the teachers one," Sain said.