It was one surprise after another at Callaway Elementary School’s assembly last week.
The school was wrapping up its Scholastic Book Fair and there were books to be given away. Not just a few books but unbeknownst to the crowd, nearly 200 books.
Later in the assembly, Carolyn Sharpe, school library media specialist, said the abundance of books for the teachers and students was made possible by the generosity of the family of Katherine Robertson MacGregor. The previous week Sharpe received letter from MacGregor’s sons, Robert and James MacGregor, indicating they would like to make a second contribution to the Callaway Elementary School library in memory of their mother. With the letter were two checks totaling $5,000.
“I was stunned and felt such an overwhelming sense of gratitude,” Sharpe said. Instead of using the reward money from the Scholastic Book Fair for books for one teacher, she was able to surprise students and teachers with books.
The previous contribution was made in May 2019 for $10,000 to the school library. Katherine MacGregor grew up in Callaway and attended then taught at Callaway School from 1951-52. Her mother, Lizzy Cole, taught from 1921-63. After moving away from the area, MacGregor continued to work as an educator while serving as a librarian.
Last August, the school held a book reveal assembly for the unveiling of the vast variety of books that are now available for Callaway’s students to check out.
“Students were cheering as we announced each new title and series,” Sharpe said. “The energy in the room was electric.”
Since the previous assembly was such a hit, Sharpe decided to hold another book reveal. A week before the Jan. 31 assembly, teachers were asked to fill out a wish list of 10 books from the book fair for books they would like to have in their classrooms for their students to read. It was announced that one teacher would be chosen to win her wish list of books.
The cafeteria was abuzz as about 225 students and 40 staff waited excitedly to learn which teacher’s classroom would receive the new books. Callaway Principal Pam Brown drew a name, and Sharpe announced the name of fourth grade teacher Charlotte Jordan.
Not wanting anyone to feel left out, Brown called all the teachers up and said that each could select one book from her stack of wish list books. The teachers rushed up to get and show off their books. In a second surprise, Brown announced that all of the teachers could have all of their books. The cafeteria erupted with a roar, and the teachers were thrilled, surprised and grateful.
“I was so surprised,” said second grade teacher Maggie Akers. “I love the opportunity to buy more books for my classroom library and for them to be bought for me is a huge deal. My students enjoy getting new books to read and so do I – it’s something we both were excited about.”
Fifth grade teacher Debbie Hall added, “Receiving the books was fantastic, because it means that my kids will have access to great non-fiction books that go along with all that we’re studying in science.”
After the teachers received their books a student’s name was set to be drawn to receive a gift certificate from the school’s PTO for a book. However, after the announcement, there was another surprise. Brown suggested to Sharpe they select nine more students to receive books of their choice. This continued until 30 students were able to receive a new book.
Second grade student Annabell Moran was one of the book recipients. “I got a tingly feeling when my name was called because I’ve never won a drawing before,” she said. “I was really happy that my teacher got so many new books, too. We get to read them in our classroom.”
Thus far, Sharpe has purchased 867 new books for the library. With her budget and the money raised from book fairs, she said she could typically purchase 60 to 75 books a year.
In addition to buying new fiction books, she has been able to update the non-fiction collection, leading to an increase in the number of students checking out non-fiction books.
“Our graphic novel section has increased to well over 200 books,” Sharpe said.
“Our students are loving this, as this is a genre that is motivating so many to read. I have students stopping in the library every morning to exchange library books and to tell me about what they are reading.”