Given a choice among four books, Ethan chose to have The Nose Book read to him when Yorkville Intermediate School 5th graders visited his Head Start class.
Ethan, a preschooler, sat at a child-sized table with 5th grader Scott Stepens as Scott read the book quickly and efficiently, holding it so Ethan could see the pictures.
Scott's class, led by Athena Stewart, read to Two Rivers Head Start classes Thursday to cap off a used book drive organized around Character Counts Week and Make a Difference Day. The book drive collected 1,279 books — 1,008 of which were donated to a coal-mining town in Kentucky through an organization called A Lasting World.
Yorkville Intermediate School Learning Specialist Karen Gottschalk started the drive in 1996 as part of National Education Week and National Recycle Day and donated 890 books to the Head Start location in Yorkville. Then she started allowing each student in the school to come to her class and pick a book, on top of donating books to Head Start.
As the student population grew, it became too hard to coordinate students choosing their own books. Head Start continued to receive a few boxes of books each year, but Gottschalk also reached out to other agencies nationwide.
Books went to the Wanbli Wiconi Tipi-Juvenile Detention Center in Rosebud, S.D., in 2007; to the Hume Child Development Center, which was rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, in 2008; and to students in Briceville, Tenn., and Pine Ridge, S.D., in 2009.
This year, Gottschalk included a self-addressed envelope and asked the community for feedback when she sent the donated books to A Lasting World. She hopes to be able to share the comments with the students who worked on the book drive.
On Thursday morning, the 5th graders in Stewart's class sat in clusters with preschoolers, whose last names Head Start leaders did not reveal to protect their privacy. The older children read two or three picture books to their younger counterparts.
As they packed up to leave Thursday, Stewart reminded the older children to make sure the younger kids kept a book or two to take home with them.
"Make sure you say 'bye' to your student," Stewart said.
Preschool teacher Randi Christensen helped them say goodbye: "Bye, friends. Thank you."