With no more than some cloth bags and a couple — thousand — books, Gary Burnett brightened the days of several lucky first grade classes this week.
Burnett, the founder of the UDA Star Foundation, visited four elementary schools this week and gifted every first grader with several new books.
“The foundation was started primarily to increase literacy for the local children,” Burnett said Tuesday, just before heading into a first grade classroom at Golden Isles Elementary. “So all the stuff we do is around helping kids learn to read or getting them to want to read more.”
As part of the Mt. Readmore project, the UDA Star Foundation donated more than 2,000 books to nearly 400 first graders at four schools — Golden Isles, Altama, Sterling and Burroughs-Molette elementary schools.
“It’s wonderful,” said Mickey Kirkland, media specialist at Golden Isles Elementary. “A lot of these kids don’t have access to quality books at home. So this gives them just a start-up set, to have something to read through the summer.”
Teachers and media specialists across the school system are currently pushing their students to read over the upcoming summer break to prevent what’s known as the “summer slide,” when students lose learning progress during the vacation.
“And the fact that these books are being donated, it tells us that the community is behind us and shows how important reading is,” Kirkland said
Burnett gave each first grade class a quick pep talk before handing out their new books. He encouraged them to read over the summer, either by visiting the local library, reading their new books at home or checking out the little book houses being set up around town by Family Connection Glynn.
“This summer, starting in June when you guys are out of school, in your neighborhood or in the parks, you’ll see these little book houses,” he told them. “And these little book houses will be full of books. And you can go and you pull out a book you want to read, you take it home, you read it … and then you take it back.”
The UDA Star Foundation also built six book houses for the project.
Kathleen Tully, a first grade teacher at Golden Isles Elementary, said this donation will greatly benefit many of her students who do not have access to books at home.
“A lot of these children don’t have a whole big library at home, to pick their own book, so this is huge for them,” she said.