Book Blast Celebration: Lafayette County school receives 7,000 books for students

Published 12:40 pm Thursday, April 7, 2022

Students of Lafayette County Lower Elementary entered the school gymnasium on Tuesday morning to the sight of thousands of books waiting to be taken home and read.

LES and the school district partnered with Books Are Fun/Collective Goods, a company committed to bringing books to thousands of schools across the United States, to increase reading among its students. The school recognized that their children did not have many opportunities to read books in the past few years, as they were more drawn to their screens, and decided to make reading more accessible.

“We’re really fortunate to have this opportunity to be able to work with schools and kids all over the country,” said Ben Kaplan, president of Books Are Fun/Collective Goods.  “Over the pandemic, we had lots of meaningful conversations with educators and we were just trying to figure out how to help and every conversation came back to reading.”

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Books Are Fun/Collective Goods has worked on this program since 2017 in collaboration with principals, teachers, librarians and reading interventionists across the nation to figure out how to facilitate the support of the community and get books in the hands of students.

LES teacher and librarian Julie Gatlin said the primary goal was to make sure every student got a free book to take home. According to Gatlin and Kaplan, reading books is vitally important to children’s development and success.

“We were first given some brochures and information on the Book Blast program, so I joined their Zoom call to get some ideas of what it is,” said Gatlin. “My first thought when I heard it was a guarantee that every child would go home with a book was ‘I knew this program was for us.'”

Regina Pair, Books Are Fun/Collective Goods’ community fundraising partner, called Gatlin a “Rockstar” for her role in making the Book Blast Celebration happen.

“I communicated with her on a regular basis,” Pair said. “We do a planned meeting at the beginning of the event and she actually did it from home with COVID. I knew from the get-go that this was going to be one of those special events and when you’ve got a librarian or media specialist that excited about getting kids to books to take home, you’ve got a formula for success.”

Through fundraising and community support, LES managed to raise approximately $72,00 to buy 6,590 books, gifting ten books to each of 659 LES students. Teachers, teachers’ assistants and officials with Books Are Fun/Collective Goods worked until 4 p.m. the day before to get the event prepared.

With the help of the Lafayette High School cheer and dance team to distribute the books, every LES student would leave that day with a bag of books to begin their own, home library.

LES and Books Are Fun/Collective Goods highlight how instrumental families and community are in the success of the program. An anonymous donor gifted a check from his retirement account that would help children who were not able to participate.

“He said his grandson’s books were already covered but he wanted to make sure other children, who were not getting books, were as well,” said Pair.

Every day people like the anonymous donor make a big difference, said Gibbs. The event displays how much the school means to the community and what the community means to the school.

“I’m tremendously proud of Lafayette County,” said Gibbs. “Friends, family and people we haven’t met that the families reached out to. Our children have reaped the benefits of books in their home and, coming out a difficult few years, it isn’t a better time to get books in the home. I’m proud of everyone and that includes my faculty and staff.”