Children are used to getting some free sweet surprises at parades, but one South Williamsport teacher is hoping to give away a more educational treat at next year's Mummers parade.
"Our goal is to at next year's Mummers parade ... we would like to have enough books to put a book in each child's hand at the parade," said Kathy Flerlage, Title 1 Reading Coordinator at Rommelt Middle School.
Flerlage is organizing the book drive, which hopefully will make her goal a reality.
Kathy Flerlage, Title 1 Reading coordinator at Rommelt Middle School, South Williamsport, holds some of the books that have been donated to the school with the hope of distributing them to each child who attends the Mummers Parade in October.
Flerlage had the idea to do so while visiting her sister in New York where they do a similar event.
"I said, 'You know, what a great way to build the bridge into the homes,' " Flerlage said.
She said as a reading specialist, she continues to look for ways to carry reading from the classroom into the students' homes. Flerlage added that reading is something that must be practiced at home.
"Literacy and reading is a skill they'll use for the rest of their lives," she said.
And although it only will be one book, Flerlage knows the importance of that first book. For her, it was the "Nancy Drew," series, which she collected one-by-one.
"One book can make a reader for the rest of his or her life," Flerlage said. "I know what it did for me."
So after Dr. Mark Stamm, superintendent, told her to "run with it," she began setting up drop-off stations at the school for community members to donate books. Flerlage set a goal of 15,000 books, to make sure there is enough for every child at the parade.
Flerlage collected about 2,000 books in the first few weeks of the drive, thanks to donations at parent-teacher conferences, from local businesses and students. Students have been helping, which is teaching them about community service.
"I think they feel good," Flerlage said. "Giving feels good."
Parents also have commented on the fact that it gives books their children have grown out of or don't use anymore a second life, Flerlage said. She also is taking advantage of book sale specials. Although it's a "daunting" task, Flerlage is being helped by the community.
"It is a community, faculty, staff, student initiative," she said.
She added that high school clubs also have begun holding events in order to collect books for the drive. And although it is a South Williamsport teacher holding the event, Flerlage is quick to point out that students from all area school districts will be affected by the drive. She hopes that after next year's parade, it continues to be a yearly handout. And as it grows, Flerlage hopes other communities will donate.
"It is a literacy drive that will (help) the community," she said.
And although books have been coming in at a fast pace, Flerlage isn't getting overly stressed about hitting her goal.
"Sometimes I try not to think about it," she said with a laugh. "I'm excited."