MORRIS – Olivia Smith arrived at school 40 minutes early Friday to set up a tent in the middle of her school’s gymnasium, crawl inside and read books with her grandmother.
“I could barely fit inside, but I did it,” said Mary Smith, Olivia’s grandmother. “Right now, we’re reading ‘Pinkalicious,’ one of her favorites.”
Smith was one of several parents and grandparents of kindergarden, first-, second- and third-grade students invited to Nettle Creek School’s Books for Breakfast event at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Kids cozied up in tents, camping chairs and blankets inside Nettle Creek School’s gymnasium as they read books with friends, family and teachers.
“The parents that work aren’t always able to come during the school day so it’s nice that this is before work,” said Marissa Darlington, event organizer and kindergarden teacher at Nettle Creek School.
“We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of families that actually read with their children so it’s fun to give back to them.”
The program is an extension of Nettle Creek’s School Improvement Plan, which aims to provide more opportunities for parents to participate in school events, among other goals.
“We are trying to promote literacy and reading by making it fun and getting parents involved,” Darlington said.
Every student in attendance left the event with a free book, thanks in large part to a $300 donation from the Morris Lions Club.
“They told us to use the money for whatever we needed and this is what we chose,” Darlington said. “If students come to all four events, they’ll get four free books.”
A free breakfast of muffins, doughnuts and juice was provided by Nettle Creek school district.
Darlington said she discovered the idea for Books for Breakfast last year while searching for family reading night activities.
“A school in another state had done this program and I thought it looked great,” Darlington said. “This is the first time we had tents set up. We’re trying to have something different every time.”
This was the second of of four Books for Breakfast events scheduled for the upcoming school year. The first was in September and the next events are Feb. 21 and May 16.
Children who attend all four events will receive a special prize at the end of the year.
As the students’ loved ones left the event, they wrote personalized notes on a sheet with the student’s name on it. The kids will receive the mementos at the end of the program.
“The parents can write something nice, or, in some cases, it will be the grandparents or aunts or uncles, which is neat to see,” Darlington said.
“I also take the kids’ pictures at every event so they’ll get those too.”
Twenty-one of 31 students came to Friday’s event, more than September’s turnout of 19, Darlington said.
“We’ll be back again,” Mary Smith said. “It’s a great event.”