Program will provide free books for students whose teachers participate

Published in the May 23 – June 5, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Morgan Hill Life and BookSmart are teaming up to give kids books to read through the summer to avoid the dreaded “summer slump.”

Morgan Hill Life and BookSmart have teamed up to get books in the hands of local students this summer to encourage them to keep up their reading during the two-month break from school.

The “Celebrate Summer Books for Kids!” special reading program is designed to encourage businesses and individuals in the community who care about children to sponsor an elementary classroom and donate $500 to purchase new books to promote reading during the summer. The dreaded “summer slump” can be a significant risk for students’ reading progress. The program will find 10 elementary teachers willing to participate in this pilot program.

The goals of the program are:

  • To provide at-risk students with good-quality books as an end-of-the-school year gift.
  • To encourage students to find the joy of reading for pleasure — and grow into life-long learners.
  • To give the community an easy and affordable way to help increate literacy among young minds.
  • To show students how the power of mass media can give them a voice to the community.
  • To teach children how the power of teaming together can build a better tomorrow for everyone.

BookSmart is a community-benefit business that helps teachers, parents and students have access to good quality material, said Brad Jones, a co-owner with his wife, Cinda Meister, of the local independent bookstore.

“We believe that education and reading are the foundation for life in our world,” he said. “Education and reading are very important and of course near and dear to our hearts.”

He encourages teachers and parents to be involved with this program to help youngster keep up their reading habits between mid-June and mid-August and prepare them for the next school year.

“The summer slump is a serious thing,” he said. “We absolutely want to help address it and we want kids to know that reading can be fun and it’s not just something you have to do in school.”

The teachers who participate in the program will have the opportunity to have a professional writer through Morgan Hill Life visit their class in the new school year and provide a special workshop designed for elementary students that will show them how to write for a mass media audience.

“When kids use their imagination, they learn they’re not just consumers, but they can also produce and create their own world through writing,” Jones said.

The students are also encouraged to write thank-you letters to the donor of their classroom book sponsorship. This will teach the youngsters how to show appreciation for a gift as well as develop their writing skills.

“Any writing of any kind encourages writing,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a thank you note or what they think about a certain thing or how they felt.”

The Celebrate Summer Books for Kids! is designed to provide an easy way to empower community engagement with our local classrooms to promote literacy skills, said Marty Cheek, publisher of Morgan Hill Life.

How the pilot program will work:

The first 10 teachers to reply with an affirmation they want to participate will be selected for the pilot program. The teachers can email the publisher at with their name and school and grade level and email information and the book title they or their class wish to receive as their Celebrate Summer Book

BookSmart will seek donations from 10 “Literacy Champions” of $500 per class to buy the books

The Champions will have their name published in a story in an upcoming issue of Morgan Hill Life.

The donors, teachers, parents and students of the class will be invited to a “Pick-up Party” at BookSmart to receive the books requested.

We encourage participating teachers to work with their students in writing a group thank you letter to their donor. The teacher can send us this letter as well as a photo of their class that will be published on the Morgan Hill Life website. The link will be provided to the teacher as well as the donor for that class. (This will serve as a lesson for the students in appreciation for a gift.)

“We already have some community members and a business interested in participating in the program,” Cheek said. “The teachers who participate in the program will have the opportunity to have a professional “Junior Journalism” instructor come into their classrooms during the 2018-2019 school year and provide one hour of instruction to the children on “the trade secrets” of how to write for mass media, he said.

The pilot program was designed with the help of the BookSmart Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that fosters literacy and education through books and the arts.


“One book can change the life of a child. It doesn’t have to be anything really deep,” Jones said.

He described how reading the book “The Wonderful Trip to the Mushroom Planet” as a child helped him imagine traveling to another planet — and the enjoyment encouraged him to read more.

Potential donors can call Cinda Meister at BookSmart at (408) 778-6467 or email

“We’re really excited about this opportunity because it’s our pleasure to put books in the hands of kids and hope that they become avid reader,” Jones said.


Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi is the editor of Morgan Hill Life newspaper. If you have a story idea or an Around Town column item you want to tell him about, you can reach him at (408) 427-5865 or at
Robert Airoldi