EDGEWATER -- About 1,200 third graders from 21 different elementary schools in Jefferson County received a donation of books Monday from a national nonprofit organization.
But there was a trend among the books: they are all culturally relevant to many of the students.
"These books were picked specifically because of the diversity that they encompass," said Nancy McCanless, president of the district's Classified School Employees Association. "We have books that are bilingual, with both English and Spanish. We have books that talk about what it is to be poor, and what it is to move around, and how to make friends at a school where you don't speak the language that other students speak. It's a beautiful collection of books, it really is."
About 34 percent of students in Jefferson County live in poverty. The elementary schools that received donations are Title I schools, meaning at least 40 percent of the students at each school are signed up for free or reduced lunches.
In addition to the 100 books that will be placed in each of the libraries, each third grader at the schools gets to take a book home.
"A lot of these kids don't have a home library, don't have a lot of books to take home. When they go home for winter break, or they go home for the summer, they don't get to continue reading, so they fall behind," said Josh Downey, president of the Denver Area Labor Foundation, who helped connect the district with the non-profit. "We know that if kids aren't reading at grade level at the end of 3rd grade, they're exponentially more likely to drop out of high school."
"Kids don't get fired up and passionate about reading because too many kids can't relate to the protagonist," he added.
In addition to the donations, two Jefferson County Title I high schools also received books from First Book.
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