When Marion Elementary School students Hap Waddell, Larry Zieammermann, and Charlie Nordquist started a book drive in March for Ethiopia Reads, they set what they thought was a lofty goal.
“We want to raise at least 1,001 books,” Zieammermann said in March.
In a school assembly Tuesday, the boys announced that with the help of MES students, they obliterated their original goal, collecting around 4,000 books that will be sent to the Ethiopian literacy project.
Their Happy Hustlers 4-H reading project started with drop boxes placed at several locations around town. But in a brainstorming session with project supervisor Kathy Martin, the boys developed a plan to accelerate collections by enlisting the help of MES classes.
“She thought it would give more people encouragement to bring more books,” Nordquist said.
“We had been planning to have a box here at school, but we hadn’t been planning a contest,” Zieammermann said.
Students competed to see which class could collect the most books each week for five weeks. The boys provided a sweet incentive for coming out on top.
“We had ice cream bars for the weekly winning class, and a root beer float party for the winning class at the end,” Zieammermann said.
The response surpassed anything the boys had expected.
“We had a book fair like this not so long ago, and we thought people would have had their books already gone,” Waddell said.
“Their goal was 1,001 books — that was beaten in week two,” MES Principal Justin Wasmuth said.
The school has had numerous events throughout the year focused on reading, from coin collections to sharing a book across all grades as part of the “One Book, One School” program.
“Our focus hasn’t fully been on reading, but it’s taken on a life of its own,” Wasmuth said. “That’s all on the teachers and staff.”
The increased emphasis on reading this year created an environment in which the Ethiopia Reads book drive could succeed, but Wasmuth was quick to note the ultimate reason for the outpouring of donations.
“This community is very charitable,” Wasmuth said.
A representative from Ethiopia Reads will pick up the books from MES and take them to Hesston, where they will be added to others that have been collected. The books will be shipped to Ethiopia to enhance the collections of 43 libraries and five mobile libraries operated by Ethiopia Reads.