MISSOULA — Combine hundreds of kids and thousands of books and you've got the ingredients for an exciting day at school.
This year, KPAX and the Scripps Howard Foundation are excited to make that happen for two local schools with a new chapter in local learning.
Friday was probably the biggest day of the year at Missoula's Lowell Elementary as more than 260 students got to "crack the covers" on books from boxes of donated Scholastic books.
"This is such a treat for all of our students here at Lowell," Lowell Teacher-Librarian Christine Russell said. "They are so excited! You could feel the excitement as soon as the boxes arrived last week. I mean, it has been buzzing around the building. For them to be able to select their own books. It just makes my heart happy."
Lowell Principal Barbara Frank said the books will be shared in the students' families too, "it's pretty exciting. And it just helps them begin to build those at-home libraries, which research says is essential for kiddos to build strong reading habits in the future."
The Lowell students got to choose four books each with some stacks worth $40 or more — that's more than $5,000 worth. They are also earning additional Scholastic credits for the school to purchase more materials, in addition to 41 books donated to the Lowell library.
"And it helps me as a librarian too," Russell told MTN News. "Because I can now see which ones are even more popular with the kids. So the next time I purchase books for Lowell, I definitely already have an ongoing list. And yes, I'm hoping these kids find each and everyone as a new friend for sure."
It was also like a second Christmas last week at St. Ignatius Elementary School where another 250 students swarmed the book stacks
"Through COIVD we stretched and pulled, and pushed and done just about everything to these kids, and they are so excited just to be back," Principal Tyler Arlint observed. "To be doing and learning and reading books. And book reading is about the one thing that I can say that the kids light up the most about when they get a new book in their hands and they want to read through it. They share it with their family."
"I love Roblox. My favorite book," we heard one girl exclaim, only to have her add a few minutes later, "I love Sonic the Hedgehog. See?"
Arlint said the donation really helps the school's book budget.
"We're always looking at that dollar amount of what we can squeeze. And so when you get a gift like this, it's so big for the kids that they can receive four books each. It just came out of the blue and we thought what a great opportunity for the kids and very thankful."
Many avid readers can point back to that time in third or fourth grade when they found that favorite book — and like Arlint, you may even still own it. And it's fun to see that happening with a new generation.
"I still remember my favorite book when I was in fourth grade. I got a Roald Dahl, 'Danny, the Champion of the World,' Arlint recalled.
"And every so often I'll go back to that book and I can just feel those pages kind of flip through my hands as that fourth grader. And it brings back the memories of the book and the whole thing. And it's just such a great way to learn. Yeah, we're definitely digital, but we're still old school." - St. Ignatius Elementary School Principal Tyler Arlint