Books can be bought at a dollar-store for as little as what it costs to buy a candy bar. But, for some parents, that extra cash has to stretch into lunch or dinner or rent. As a result, many children simply go without.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. In 2003, St. Ann’s Sodality – the women’s group from St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach – started to give books to every child at John M. Clayton Elementary School (formerly Frankford Elementary School) twice a year, as an outreach.
“We knew their story,” said Joanne Bosalacchi, a member of the Sodality. “It’s a needy school, and many of us had been mentoring there and knew that they didn’t have books at home, and we wanted them to have something to read over the summer.”
They also present books around Christmas time and, a year ago, started to give books to students at Phillip Showell Elementary School in Selbyville, as well.
Bosalacchi explained that parishioners started bringing books to the church after the group put an announcement in the church bulletin. People will also sometimes give money to go toward the purchase of the books. She noted that, this spring, it has been harder on people to give, so she wanted to get the word out that books and donations being are accepted at any time, from anyone who has the resources and desire to give.
Bosalacchi, a former reading specialist and school principal, said the group takes their mission seriously. They call the school to get the names of each child and separate the books by grade level and gender. Then they wrap the books and write the students’ names on them by hand. This week, they wrapped about 930 books, which will be handed out at both schools.
“We feel pretty good about it,” she said. “We get great thank-you notes that say things like, ‘This is the first book I have ever had,’ or ‘I keep it under my pillow so it’s safe,’ or ‘I shared it with my neighbor because he doesn’t know English.’”
“It touches your heart,” she said.
Melissa Grise, a fourth-grade teacher at John M. Clayton Elementary, said the students really enjoy the books and the gesture.
“It’s a big deal. It’s really neat that they do this,” she said. “The kids’ eyes light up. You think sometimes that kids don’t want books, but they really do appreciate them. Some of our kids don’t get presents, so when they are wrapped, it makes it extra special.”
Bosalacchi estimated that, since 2003, the Sodality has given away between 9,000 and 10,000 books.
For more information, or to donate books, contact Bosalacchi at (302) 539-3818 or drop books off at the Masterson Center (the small brick building just west of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach) on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.