When asked if they've read something yesterday, hundreds of students at Stone Middle School raised their hands. Educators want more students to pick up a book and expand their minds.
"They need motivation. We need awareness in the county of how important reading is," Principal Vicki Compston said.
To rally the students to read, the school kicked off its "Reading Is Fundamental" program. Community leaders played games and gave away prizes to show that reading really pays off.
"It helps you create imagination, it helps you develop a sense of self worth, and it helps you develop your intellect," MGCCC Vice President Mary Graham said.
"Hopefully, it will enable the students to further their education, give them a resource of books and information that they'll need for life," General Dynamics Representative Lori Baxter said.
Stone County's newest celebrity, pro baseball player Fred Lewis, urged the students to read in order to succeed.
"I could just say I want to be a professional athlete, anybody could say that. But I had to put a lot of action into it and patience and motivation and practice."
Each student also got to choose a favorite book and keep it.
"The program makes me want to read more than I usually do, because in elementary school, I read a lot, but nowadays I don't," eighth grader Ashtin Price said.
The school will hold two more book distributions before the end of the year. Students at Stone Elementary and Perk Elementary will also receive free books. The school district received a $7,200 grant to buy the books. General Dynamics of McHenry matched that grant.