Books are the instruments that foster new ideas and provide a gateway to the imagination for young children. With that thought, students at Dunaway Elementary School wanted to give that gift of reading to other students who were in areas affected by Hurricane Ike last fall.

“This started out with (librarian) Becky Lowry, who goes back and forth to Galveston a lot and has seen the devastation. There was an elementary school in Galveston that had been hit and she approached me with this idea,” Dunaway principal Eric Brewster said.

“She wanted to know what we could to do to help and I really didn’t know. Then she came up with the idea of having a fundraiser to raise money or donate books for that library. Becky got a hold of the curriculum director in Galveston and she said, ‘Thank you. We are hard hit and this is a great idea.’ ”

As the collection began though, the book drive hit a slight road bump. The Army Corps of Engineers condemned the elementary school where Dunaway students intended to make the donation. The engineers redrew the flood plain – and the school was below it. The students who had been attending the school were instead split between two different schools that had not been affected.

After a few phone calls were made by Brewster, another set of elementary schools were found that were in need of help in Bridge City. The Dunaway drive was then designated to help restore the libraries at Sims and Hatton Elementary schools, both in the Bridge City ISD.

With the efforts of the community and students, more than 1,000 books and a little more than $1,500 were raised at Dunaway. Donation jars were set up in each classroom to collect students’ loose change and more than 150 T-shirts were sold at $15 apiece. The T-shirts advertised the book drive, which was called Restoring Elementariness After Destruction, or READ for short. The drive was capped off with Mardi Gras-themed event that raised an additional $900.

“One of the fun things that we are doing is that we are calling this Beads for Books. For every book that the students bring in they get a string of Mardi Gras beads. You might see some kids walking around with 35 strings of beads around their neck. That means that they have brought in that many books,” Lowry said.

“The book drive started Jan. 27 and was going to end in February. Since we are storing them we can take them right up until August when we go down there to deliver them. We will probably drive them down because of the cost of the freight,” Lowry said.

Books can still be dropped off at the front office – and all donations should be age appropriate for elementary school students. New hardbound books are preferred, but gently used books also will be accepted.  

“It has been a good geography lesson for our kids to see where Bridge City is and to see from some of the photographs what damage had been done there. Our students are well aware about what happened there with Hurricane Ike,” Brewster said.

“The community has really stepped up to donate used books. I think the benevolent gesture that she (Lowry) has had in this has rubbed off on everyone,” he said.

E-mail Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com