Nick Strimbu Inc. and the United Way of Mercer County sent Brookfield Elementary School first-graders home with an early Christmas present Tuesday, one that organizers hope will be a gift that keeps on giving.
“We want you to be lifelong learners,” said Nancy Lukasko, representing Nick Strimbu Inc. for her brother, company President Bill Strimbu.
The students received books, either “Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson and illustrator Jane Chapman or “Leo the Late Bloomer” by Robert Kraus and illustrator Jose Aruego.
The United Way was already planning the book giveaway in Mercer County when Lukasko asked United Way Executive Director Jim Micsky if it could be brought to Brookfield. Micsky said, yes, if a sponsor could be found, and Strimbu climbed aboard.
The United Way has been moving into more heavily promoting education, most notably with its preschool Success By Six program, Micsky said. Encouraged by the “astounding” results of a summer reading program for students moving from kindergarten to first-grade, the organization wanted to stress the importance of reading in early grades, he said.
“Our goal is to, hopefully, engage the community in the importance of education,” he said.
Being that this is the Christmas season, “What better gift than a book?” Micsky said.
Lukasko, a former Brookfield teacher, encouraged the students to take the books home and have their parents read the story to them.
“We want you to take good care of it and add to your library at home,” she said.
Lukasko’s daughter, Kara Kasula, a teacher for Lakeview schools, took that message one step further. As the first-graders learn to read, they should read their book to their parents, their siblings, their pets – even their stuffed animals.
“They make the best listeners,” Kasula said of Teddy bears and their ilk. “They don’t talk back.”
Reading the book over the Christmas break will help keep the students’ minds fresh and combat holiday brain drain, Micsky said.
“When you’re away from class, you’ll still think about school and come back ready to learn,” he said.
The students all received free books at the Brookfield Parents Association book fair, making the United Way giveaway the perfect bookend event, said Brookfield Elementary Principal Stacey Filicky.
“This is just amazing,” she said. “This is a gift.”
Filicky noted with disappointment the number of students who did not raise their hands when asked if they have libraries at home.
“We truly appreciate Strimbu for this,” she said. “There’s a lot of kids who probably aren’t going to get a book. We started them off.”