Gifts of adventure await

A tiny mouse carries a secret in a grand palace.  A birthday cake for grandma wriggles with worms.  A teenage lawyer struggles to clear his name. 

These stories and more will soon enthrall young readers at Granite Hill Elementary.  Each of the school's 650 students will get a book as a holiday gift, thanks to a partnership between the campus and the nonprofit group First Book.

"It's something the students ask for," said Mrs. Jacqueline Rogers, the Elementary Media Center Clerk at Granite Hill.  "They say, 'Do we get a book for Christmas?' "

The answer to this drama is yes, thanks to initiative and research by Mrs. Rogers.  This fall, the librarian registered with First Book, which has awarded the school 680 books this holiday season, for a nominal postage fee of 75 cents apiece.  The school obtained a similar number of gifts through the program last year, Mrs. Rogers said.

Students delight in receiving a book they can keep, display and revisit.  "They can always borrow one from the library," Mrs. Rogers said, "but to have one of their very own – maybe their bookshelf has four or five books – makes them very happy."

This year, Granite Hill students can choose from seven tales, including titles such as "The Knight at Dawn," "The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail," "Madeline and the Old House in Paris," and "The Accused," a John Grisham novel for children.

Mrs. Rogers said she culled the selections by thumbing through more than 100 titles available through First Book.  She tested each story for quality, likability, and readability by perusing book reviews in the School Library Journal, a trade publication for librarians who work with children.

To give away the ending, here's what happens next: The books will go on display in the school library early this month, Mrs. Rogers said.  Students can then recite the title they want and take home a wrapped hardbound copy of the story.

The program helps build pupils' home libraries, nurture a love of reading, and ensure that every student has a little something extra to unwrap and explore this holiday season.

The gifts also foster connections among students, and enhance learning by inviting dialogue.  "So many kids have the same book," Mrs. Rogers said.  "They can share their views.  They'll come back to school and discuss how good it was or what they liked about it."

​So come January, the Granite Hill library may buzz with talk of tiny mice, wormy birthday cakes, and whiz-kid lawyers.  It will be great, in fact, to see so many students on the same page.