Greenwood Elementary Alums Return, Bearing Books

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Greenwood alums Zoe Zmolek, Claire Bissmeyer, Natalie Bennett and Grace & Ella Sundstrom – now students at Callanan Middle School – returned with a gift of nearly 900 books for students.

Ah, the good old days at Greenwood Elementary School, when Zoe Zmolek, Claire Bissmeyer, Natalie Bennett and Grace and Ella Sundstrom were gobbling up good books like they were Skittles. Besides their home libraries there was a federal program called Reading is Fundamental. RIF provided free books to take home for the summer so schoolgirls could keep up with the exploits of Junie B. Jones in between swims.

But the girls grew and moved on and the RIF grant lapsed at Greenwood. Now the five friends are well-read 8th graders at Callanan Middle School/Central Academy and they drew an assignment in their government class that required some community service.

Via the younger sibling and neighborhood grapevines, they knew there was a hole where RIF had been at Greenwood so their shared task was clear: fill it.

In late March they launched a project to provide free books to all 300+ Greenwood students before school adjourned for the summer. The United Way and Half Price Books came aboard as sponsors and the girls supplemented those donations by drawing upon their own collections. A total inventory of almost 900 books was accumulated including plenty for each grade level, K-5.

Tuesday morning the distribution began as the Woodchuck alums returned to their roots to spread a lot of good words.

First to choose from the biblio-bazaar were the 3rd graders. Before she turned them loose to browse among the neatly organized display tables, Grace Sundstrom delivered a brief preface.

“Feel free to look through the books and choose one to keep,” she said. “Then Zoe will give you a note to take home and show your parents. That’s it – go ahead!”

Off they went, pawing through the stacks of Captain Underpants, Big Nate, Flat Stanley, Wimpy Kid, et al. The young librarians offered recommendations based on their personal reading experiences when kids had a tough time choosing.

“We chose to create a reading program called LOL (Literacy on Level),” read the take-home note, in part. “Today we had the pleasure to come to Greenwood and give out a free book to each student to help promote summer reading.”

Pleasure is right. The girls all clearly enjoyed the customer service aspect of the book business. And the return trip to the carefree days of elementary school.

“Oh, The Magic Treehouse,” sighed Claire as the squad quickly restocked in between classes. “I loved The Magic Treehouse.”

What happens to the surplus? The group collected three times as many titles as Greenwood has students.

“We’ll save them for next year,” said Zoe.

But next year they won’t be doing an assignment for 8th grade government anymore. What gives?

The unanimous and enthusiastic intention is to continue LOL clear through their high school years, expanding it to other schools. Do any of them intend to become teachers, librarians or bookstore owners? They’re not sure what they plan to do, other than maybe run for Congress. But they all know one thing for certain.

Nothing beats reading a good book on a lazy summer day in the middle of childhood, when the livin’ is easy.

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