Friday, January 18, 2013


The Book Mavens who organized the Books Galore Holiday Store for middle school students at Piccolo School of Excellence, 1040 N. Keeler Ave., are Joanne Lulla, Shondelle Gillens, Erynn O’Mahen, Brooke Roark, Michaelene Roark, Jen Saltarelli, and Deirdre Campbell of Academy for Urban School Leadership. They collected more than 4,700 books and 1,000 stuffed animals from which students selected gifts for younger brothers & sisters. (Photo by Brad)

Seven ladies with an idea, led by Brooke Roarke, brightened the holidays for middle school students at Piccolo School of Excellence and their younger family members. Instead of providing toys for children, their concept was to make Christmas a learning experience by providing an opportunity for older students to select books to give as Christmas presents to their younger siblings.
The women scoured bookstores, used-book sales, library sales, and they put out appeals to friends and the public for children’s books to be donated. The books had to be appropriate for children up to 6th grade and be in practically new condition. They also accepted monetary contributions that they then used at half-price bookstores and other sales.
Last year, these book hunters obtained and redistributed over 2,000 books at Libby Elementary School. This year at Piccolo, the women raised over $1,000 and obtained more than 4,700 books.
This meant that each Piccolo middle school student was able to select three books they thought their younger family members would like. In addition, each student could also choose a stuffed animal to give a younger brother or sister. All of this was free. There was a gift-wrapping station provided, too, where their presents were wrapped for Christmas giving.
Ms Roark says the point of this project is to provide books to families who probably cannot invest in a family library. It also allows young people to strengthen bonds with younger brothers and sisters by giving them presents they wouldn’t be able to afford to buy on their own. She says it also helps children realize the pleasure that comes from giving to others and making someone else happy, rather than thinking only of themselves. She says it was especially gratifying to see the students concentrating on selecting precisely the right gift book that their younger brother or sister would like.

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