by Dennis Dalman
Tara Berger’s wish for books – lots of books – came true.
She never dreamed so many books would materialize so quickly.
Berger is a member of the Sartell-St. Stephen Early Childhood Education Advisory Board.
Some months ago, Berger was part of a discussion in the Oak Ridge Elementary School Media Center. She and others were discussing the move of the school system’s early-childhood education classes into the District Office Building. Berger remembers seeing all of the rows of books in the Oak Ridge Media Center and thinking there should be lots of books in the new place where children could have their very own library.
The move will take place in time for the next school year. There are about 200 children, ages 0-5, in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District who are enrolled in some form of pre-school program. Their new classroom-activity areas will be in a refurbished wing of the District Office Building.
On April 11, Berger began a book drive, hoping people would donate new or used books, age appropriate, for the pre-school children.
“I knew I’d get a good response, but I had not idea it would be this good,” Berger said.
In the first week, she received 500 books. In the next couple of weeks, they kept coming. So far, there are 1,200 books – enough to form the basis of a virtual library for the pre-schoolers. Only a few had to be discarded because of being too worn or marked up with pencil or color-crayon scribbles. The books are mainly storybooks, with lots of pictures, and some are non-fiction books.
The book drive will continue until May 25. There are deposit boxes for books in all of Sartell’s four schools and at the District Office Building.
Berger said she was overwhelmed by all the support her project garnered. Principals authorized a mass email notice to all families about the need for new books; the media specialist at Oak Ridge did a search for duplicate books that could be donated; and parents and students were generous in donating fine books in excellent condition.
During Sartell Community Service Day last week, six students helped label and stamp the books. They are soon ready to be shelved, once the preschool wing is ready later this summer.
Berger knows first-hand the importance of books in children’s lives. She has seen the joy in the eyes of her own children – Ella, first grade; and Nikolas, pre-school – when they hold books in their hands. While volunteering at school, she remembers a line of children, each of them holding a new book, their faces beaming with pride.
“I’ll never forget how proud and happy they were with their books,” she said.
Some new books may soon join the older books. Berger has written a grant application for new books, and a private donation for new books is forthcoming.
Berger is eager to see pre-school children’s faces, come next school year, when they see their very own library.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.