Valentine’s cards, both homemade and store-bought, were traded all over town today, expressing all sorts of poetic confections, friendly adorations and even comedic flirtations. But at J.H. Hines Elementary School an extra dose of love went into the Valentine’s sacks of students in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.
Gathered in the cafeteria for a surprise presentation, the students quickly realized that their Valentine’s might take a little longer to read but soon discovered that reading pays dividends greater than sugary hearts and waxy chocolates. Well, maybe anyway.
Thanks to McLennan Community College (MCC), these students each received a brand new book to take home and call their own.
Dr. Donald Balmos, MCC Vice President of Instruction and Dr. Peaches Henry, who is an assistant professor of English at MCC, personally delivered the books to the students.
McLennan Community College provided $1,000 towards the purchase of the books and Scholastic offered book discounts that enabled Henry, who spearheaded the effort, to purchase approximately 215 books for the students.
“We just wanted to build some excitement around reading,” Henry said, who also helps coordinate regular reading programs and clubs at the campus.
Some of the most popular books that were given out were from the Magic Treehouse series and the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. There were also biographies, sports books, princess books, map books, mysteries, and many more.
“Some of the books are connected to the Accelerated Reader program,” said Henry, referring to the program that many schools use to assess students reading level and ability.
Most importantly, the books that the students received today were brand new.
Henry hopes that by giving students their very own book, it will help them have more access to reading.
“Books are expensive – they just are,” Henry said. “It’s their own – they can do what they want.”
Henry hopes that by giving students ownership, they will be encouraged not only to read their new book, but also to trade with friends and discover other books to read as well.
To reinforce that message, Henry explained to the students what a bookplate is, and how it is used to identify the owner of a book. McLennan Community College graphic artist Clif-Ann Paris designed the customized bookplates that were placed inside of each book.
As an added incentive, Henry gave the students a little financial encouragement to read their books. She offered $5 to any student who, after reading their book, approaches her in public and tells her the title of the book and what it was about.
It’s a bold tactic, but one that Henry has used before.
“I’ll do anything to get kids to read a book.”