Sandy Hook shooting-inspired donated books being shipped out

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They include such titles as "Goodnight Moon," "Fox in Socks" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Many are geared to first-graders, but others are suitable for children as old as fourth grade.

These donated books have been arriving for weeks, each a symbol of generosity and of grief over the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

In the eight weeks since a Slippery Rock University professor urged people from Pennsylvania and beyond to buy a book, read it to their child and donate it in memory of the 26 first-graders and staff shot dead in Connecticut, nearly 10,000 books have been collected in six states, organizers say.

To mark the effort's conclusion, leaders of the "We can Read" drive have prepared Valentine's Day greetings for delivery to Sandy Hook Elementary, to officials of Newtown, Conn., and to the parents of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, one of the victims whose love of reading became the impetus for the drive.

Meanwhile, books collected by more than two dozen organizations and individuals are making their way to schools, libraries and other child-serving organizations in or near communities where the book donors live.

"Personally, any time I can get a book into a kid's hand is a good thing," said Leslie Pallotta, director of the Cranberry Public Library, which collected more than 1,200 books from the community. "The fact you're doing it in memory of kids who are going to be denied the joy of holding a book in their hand is really something quite remarkable."

The library's total is part of the 2,000-plus books collected by organizations for delivery to the Butler County Children's Center, the agency that provides Head Start programs to children at or below the poverty level countywide. The children can pick out books they like and bring them home to keep.

"This is just an overwhelming gift that we can give to them, and that the community has given us," said Alice Nunes, the center's chief executive officer, who expects a shipment of books today.

As of Tuesday, 9,835 books had been gathered in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia, said Alice Del Vecchio, an assistant professor in Slippery Rock's department of professional studies and director of its nonprofit management program. She said $700 has been contributed to groups, including the Pittsburgh chapter of Reading is Fundamental.

Along with Slippery Rock and its student nonprofit alliance, participants included Carnegie Mellon University, Butler County Community College and four area high schools -- Hopewell, Bishop Canevin, Hampton and the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, the university said. Ms. Del Vecchio said several elementary schools also took part, among them two Pottsgrove elementary schools, Fairview Park in Cleveland, East Catholic and McKnight Elementary School.

Businesses, PTAs and other groups took part, too, including Reach Out and Read Kansas City, which has collected 6,000 books so far and will do so until Feb. 25, Ms. Del Vecchio said.

At East Catholic, in Forest Hills, one fifth-grader went through unused books at home and donated 100 titles, nearly half the 250 books collected at the school, said Kate Halahurich, a member of the parent-teacher guild. She said the books will go to the Heritage Community Initiatives.

An Alexandria, Va., woman told drive organizers that she took her seven grandchildren to a bookstore and bought each of them a book for their own libraries. Some did more than donate books, like the 48 Hopewell High students who read to k-4 students in their district.

"It renews your faith in people," Ms. Del Vecchio said.

education - region - neigh_north

Bill Schackner: or 412-263-1977. First Published February 14, 2013 5:00 AM


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