Students donate books to Ethiopia
Tonganoxie Elementary School students recently did their part to help fight illiteracy around the world.
Earlier this month, LeeAnn Clark, former president of the Kansas Reading Association, picked up 10 large boxes full of books that will go to children's libraries in Ethiopia.
"I was thrilled with the response," said Karen Stephenson, a fourth-grade teacher at the school who was working with Clark on a book drive that began Sept. 24 and ended Oct. 12.
This was the first year that Tonganoxie Elementary had participated in the program that collected books from American children and shipped them to the African country.
School officials had set up boxes inside the library where students could drop off their used books and see how many books were being donated.
On Sept. 20, Clark came to TES to give a slideshow about Ethiopia before starting the book drive.
During her presentation, TES students got to learn about Ethiopia's long history and its customs, culture and food.
They were also told about the major illiteracy problem plaguing the country. Clark introduced the students to the budding children's libraries that were filled with books donated by American children.
"I think it was a real eye-opener for the kids to see the slides," Stephenson said. "They were surprised the kids don't have access to books and illiteracy was so high. It was just really surprising to students that kids didn't have access to books and there wasn't a library in every town. They found that hard to believe."
The next day, Stephenson said the students had questions about the traveling libraries, including how the Ethiopian children could read the books if they didn't know English. The answer: English is taught in the schools there.
During the three-week long book drive, TES students collected books ranging from kindergarten to 12th-grade reading levels.
Though the school had asked the students to bring gently used books, Stephenson said she was surprised at the condition of the donated items.
"They looked like they could have come out of a shelf at a bookstore," Stephenson said.
She was also impressed with the number of hardback books the students donated.
"The kids were happy to donate and share what they had with others," Stephenson said.
The books gathered by the TES children will go along with other books gathered around the state. Once a cargo container is filled with the books, it will be shipped to Ethiopia.
During the presentation Clark said she couldn't express how happy she was with children's involvement.
"I really do believe books and literature are the answer," Clark said. "Literate people have hope. They are the ones that make changes."