This year’s essay topic is “What are you grateful or thankful for in your lives, and why?”

 Paradise Valley Engineering Academy Principal Amber Andrade picks up books for the students. Photo courtesy BookSmart

By Staff Report

The annual Gift of Reading program, run by BookSmart Community Advantage, is ensuring Morgan Hill students have books to unwrap this holiday season.

BookSmart |For more than 20 years, the nonprofit has collected new and gently used books to distribute to underserved youth in the community.

This year’s book drive kicked off with the annual essay contest, challenging students to write on what they are thankful for in 200-300 words. The contest was open to K-12 students in Morgan Hill schools, with winners selected across six grade brackets. Submissions are due Nov. 30 and can be mailed or dropped off at the BookSmart store at 421 Vineyard Town Center, Morgan Hill, CA 95037.

This year’s essay topic is “What are you grateful or thankful for in your lives, and why?”

BookSmart’s co-owner Cinda Meister said the essay contest inspires kids’ interest in reading and writing while also raising awareness for the Gift of Reading program. This year’s theme asked students to focus on optimistic thoughts amid difficult world events.

“It’s a Thanksgiving theme but it’s also important, given the world situation right now, to think some positive thoughts and share them with people as opposed to all the negative and scary thoughts going on right now,” she said. “We all need to remember that there still are good things in the world and good things in our lives, and it’s good to focus on that and articulate that fact.”

Prizes for each category’s winner include gift certificates from BookSmart, writing journals, certificate of merit, and publication of the triumphant essays in Morgan Hill Life, said the store’s co-owner Brad Jones.

“The essay contest does two things,” he said. “One, it inspires kids to be interested in writing and reading, which is an important skill for anybody. It also helps us kick off the Gift of Reading program by raising awareness.”

The nonprofit is also accepting new and like-new kids’ books to encourage young people in the underserved community to discover the joy of reading. The donated books, including popular titles like “Wings of Fire” and “Bad Guys”, will be given to students up to 8th grade in the Morgan Hill Unified School District before winter break. Parents will be able to select books suited for their children’s interests.

Along with books for elementary school students, donated baby board books are also given to younger siblings at home. New books or cash donations are being accepted at BookSmart through Dec. 15. Any book that’s bought in the store gets a 20 percent discount if it’s going to be donated.

Volunteers are also needed to transport books to distribution points and to sort them by age groups and condition. Please contact BookSmart at 408-778-6467 to volunteer or donate.