Cranberry library book drive in honor of Newtown filling bins

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When Cranberry Library director Leslie Pallotta heard about a local effort to collect and donate children's books as a way to memorialize the first-graders who were killed in last month's massacre in Connecticut, she believed it was something the community could get behind.

She was right.

Within days of announcing the book drive, a large bin at the Rochester Road municipal center where the library is based was filled.

"Our donations have been very good. I'm not at all surprised," Ms. Pallotta said.

A Slippery Rock University assistant professor had the idea for the project when she heard a father talking about the loss of his child who had just learned to read and already was sharing her newly acquired knowledge with her younger siblings.

The professor thought of collecting and donating books in honor of the young readers who died in Newtown, Conn. The project immediately was undertaken by the Nonprofit Student Alliance at Slippery Rock.

As the effort was publicized, Ms. Pallotta said, she wanted to join in. The goal was established to collect as many new and gently used children's books -- especially those for early readers -- to be donated to the Butler County Head Start project for preschool youngsters.

"As a librarian, one of my missions in life is to get books into the hands of people. This is something we librarians just want to do. Then, reflecting on the little readers who were lost [in Connecticut,] well, this just seemed like the perfect way to remember them," she said.

Books are being collected through the end of January and then will be transferred to the Head Start program. A Valentine will be sent in early February to the Connecticut school, letting officials there know of the effort's success.

Ms. Pallotta said the Head Start program, with 510 participants, tries to give each child a book three times annually. Though the Cranberry Library did not set an explicit goal for the ongoing collection, she said she wouldn't be surprised if 1,500 books were collected -- enough to meet the Head Start program's needs for this year.

The collection bin was placed outside the library Dec. 27 and was full six days later in response to a Facebook message: "Each and every one of us was once a child just learning to read. We share common memories of snuggling on a loved one's lap, or having someone snuggle on ours, with our favorite story book. Learning to read is more than letters and words. It is about persistence, support, endearing moments and the amazing pride when you can finally do it! We invite you to join Cranberry Public Library in honoring the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School by participating in the We Can Read! Project created by the Nonprofit Student Alliance at Slippery Rock University."

In addition to sending a Valentine to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the alliance will make its first distribution of books to Head Start children in Butler County for Valentine's Day.

neigh_north

Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.


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