It started with a simple request on Facebook: Would anyone be interested in giving the gift of reading this holiday season?

Within minutes of posting her message, Casey DeGroot, a fifth-grade teacher at Sunnyslope Elementary School, saw the responses begin to flood in.

“Count me in!”

“I will help!”

“Definitely.”

“The response in like 20 minutes was so overwhelming,” DeGroot said.

DeGroot’s post in early November asked friends and family if they’d be willing to donate $7 apiece to buy brand-new books for the students in her class. “Thanks for considering blessing the life of one of my students!” the post read.

Enough pledges quickly came in for DeGroot’s class of 25 students. Then enough came in to cover the other fifth-grade class. Eventually, enough funds were raised to purchase new books for all the kids in the school.

With hundreds of Facebook friends DeGroot cast a wide net, and around 60 or 70 people came forward to donate. Some sponsored one student and others sponsored multiple kids. Some people donated $100. A college friend of DeGroot’s who teaches overseas was so moved by the idea that she donated $1,000.

DeGroot ultimately raised a little over $2,000 to purchase about 650 books for the 280 or so students enrolled at Sunnyslope. Teachers throughout the school passed around Scholastic Book magazines to allow each student to decide how to spend his or her $7. Many students were able to order two or three books each.

“It was a nice change to see social media used in a proactive and positive way and just to see the generosity of spirit,” DeGroot said.

Before the holiday break, teachers unpacked boxes of books and began handing them out.

One of DeGroot’s students, Liam McCallister, had ordered “Old Yeller,” “101 Ho Ho Holiday Jokes” and “Lone Stars.”

“They seemed like a fun thing to read,” he said, adding that it felt “awesome” to be able to choose his own books.

Fellow fifth-grader Cadence Denny was particularly excited to receive “Magic Kitten.”

“I like cats,” she said, explaining that the new book will join her collection at home.

Sunnyslope Principal Don Schrader said the donations were greatly appreciated.

“Anytime you have something like that at our school, it’s great,” he said.

DeGroot, who is in her fifth year of teaching in Douglas County and previously taught in Wisconsin, wanted to ensure that her students continued to read over the winter break. She knows not all children have the same access to books, and she wanted to make sure her students received a special gift for the holidays.

“I think every kid deserves a good book and that opportunity to read,” she said.

Chelsea Duncan is a communications specialist with the Douglas Education Service District.

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