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A bustin' book drive

Local week in review
Preschoolers Isaiah Hemann, left, and Trey Schaefer listen to eighth-grader Harlie Osberg as she reads "The Hair Book" Thursday at the Community Learning Center in Austin. As a service project for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Ellis Middle Schoolers collected 2,524 books in a book drive that had an original goal of 600.

The goal was to collect 600 books. The result was a collection of more than 2,500 new and gently-used books as part of a book drive led by the Culture Club at Ellis Middle School, students and the Ellis Equity Team.

The folks at Ellis partnered for the book drive to collect books for children age birth to 5 and to promote early literacy. Their goal was 600 books — one for every newborn baby projected to be born in the next year. The drive started Martin Luther King Jr. Day; the goal was surpassed within that first week.

"The students at Ellis really exemplified Martin Luther King," said Ellis assistant principal Jessica Cabeen. "And this is just phenomenal."

On Thursday, Ellis students read some of the books to preschoolers at the Austin Public Schools Community Learning Center. When they were finished, each child got to pick out a book to take home.

The Ellis students also presented books to Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin to be distributed to newborn babies.


Prior to the book donation, Cabeen said the books "just filled the display case at Ellis."

Seventh-grader Bakign Nyikew is part of Culture Club and was at the CLC to read to the youngsters Thursday. At first, she was skeptical that the group would even make its goal. Then they started counting the books at club meetings.

"Wow, that's a shocker," Nyikew said of all the books that came in the first week. "That's pretty cool because some kids grow up without reading books."

Inspired to serve

The middle schoolers all wore matching powder blue T-shirts for the book drive. The back of the shirts had a picture of the Dr. Seuss character the Cat in the Hat, and a quotation: "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, 'Life's most persistent and urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'"

The book drive was a service project idea brought forth by the Equity Team in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The idea actually came from a King website with a list of service projects, said Jennifer Gosha, who is on the Equity Team and is a teacher at Ellis. She said the kids loved the idea when it was presented to them.

About 50 kids were involved in organizing the drive, and about 20-30 of those kids helped out Thursday by reading to the preschoolers and giving out the books.

"It's a great gift to us," said Amy Baskin, community education and communications director for Austin Public Schools. "Because a lot of our kids don't have books at home."


The younger kids sat and listened to the stories. They also seemed very excited about being able to pick out a book to take home. Both of the age groups seemed to have an equal amount of fun with the day.

"It feels good to be a leader," said eighth-grader Kyler Pepper. "It feels good to know you helped someone."

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