ARMA — Everyone remembers book orders from school. The moment the teacher unpacks that box however, is not always a happy one for many students. Books purchased from brightly colored ordering forms are often out of reach for parents struggling to get by.
So sometimes many children are left out while classmates proudly show off new literary conquests. This will not be the case this year in Arma though. This year, every child from preschool to 8th grade will receive a book every month when orders come in. This is possible because the community decided it needed to be and then made it happen.
It all began when the head of the Arma Economic Development Group, Melisa Rhodes saw a Facebook post from an out-of-state teacher requesting books for her classroom. The post said that Scholastic could send a child a book every month during the school year for $9.
“I posted about it on our group and asked if anyone thought this was something we could do for our kids here in Arma,” Rhodes said. “It just blew up, everyone was offering to help sponsor a child.”
According to Rhodes, donations poured in from all over the community. The town of Mulberry put a donation jar up and raised enough to sponsor 13 children in just a few days.
The president of the Mulberry City Council Harlene Bailey said the size of her town didn’t stop them from stepping up for the children. Children from Mulberry attend Arma schools, as do Bailey’s grandchildren.
“We’re a small town, even a bit of a poor town, but when it comes to our kids they come out,” Bailey said. “This town, holy moly they were on it, and it was great to hear my grandkids talking about how excited all the other kids were.”
Bailey said the project was made even more moving because when she delivered the money the school was surprised at the amount.
“They were really grateful and appreciative,” she said. “I was touched to see them so happy with the donations, especially since it really was a group effort from all of the town.”
Although most of the donations came from individuals sponsoring one or two kids, a few large donors did contribute as well. Carolyn Zagonel from Girard Chicken Annie sponsored several children.
Politician Bryan Hoffman found out about the program and joined with Adam Lusker, and Monica Murnan to sponsor a whole class.
Murnan, a former teacher herself, said she really respects that Arma was trying to help all the children in its district have access to books, as some get left behind from the experience through no fault of their own.
“Any opportunity to put a book in a kid’s hands is worth it,” Murnan said.
Politician Ken Collins donated $50.
Arma Elementary School Principal Kerstin Womble said she felt “blessed” to have so many people willing to help her students.
“A lot of children don’t have access to books of their own,” Womble said. “For a child who normally does not have a lot of books in their home to be able to call one their own is really a big deal for them.”
Womble said that many families in her district are working as hard as they can, and to see the community rise to the challenge was heartwarming.
“Honestly, they knew the need was there and they just decided to help,” she said. “This will really mean a great deal to the kids who have never had a book to call their own.”
Third grade teacher Carolyn Williams said the value of the books go far beyond just providing something for a child to read.
“The first book they got was all about science and now they are wanting to learn more,” Williams said. “I hope as they get into reading more it will cause them to want to learn more too.”
Eight-year-old Hunter Jones, a student in Williams class, said she is excited about the new book.
“I really really like to read,” Hunter said.
Jaxson Payne, another student in Williams class, said he also likes to read and is excited to see everyone receive books.
“I think it’s cool the whole class gets one,” he said with a smile.