PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A Pearl River County school librarian recently won a national contest. She used the prize money to purchase presents for some sixth graders. The gifts weren't the latest electronic gadgets or hottest toys. Instead, she surprised them with the gift of reading.
Thirty sixth graders at Pearl River Central Middle School had no idea why they were called to the library Thursday.
"I won! Yes, I won for you," the librarian told them with a big smile on her face.
The students learned that their school has won a national contest and they would each receive five new books to take home and keep. Librarian Sheri Maloy entered the contest to win a home library for her students. To be eligible, schools must have at least 75-percent of students who are low income.
"It's an opportunity. If we can get books for the kids, then it was worth it," said Maloy.
Out of 35,000 entries nationwide, 16 schools won the prize. Pearl River Central Middle School was the only winner from Mississippi.
"We're very lucky, very blessed," she said.
Maloy used the prize money to purchase the books.
"I was just delighted to get to share the books with the students. Not many of these students are big readers, so we want to make it a positive experience for them, give them the books they can use, books that were also fun, and to encourage not only them, but other family members to read as well."
The 30 students who received books were chosen based on their reading level.
"I felt great! I didn't know what to do. I was so surprised," said sixth grader Maddi Owen.
"I thought it was awesome! These are books that can help me with my homework," said sixth grader Kobe Schmidt.
Each book seemed to stir-up even more excitement.
"Hey, Alice in Wonderland, this is awesome!" one girl exclaimed.
"I like all of them, but the design and Walt Disney is my favorite," said sixth grader Payton Bilquist.
The collection included a big Disney animation book, a dictionary, even a popular book from the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. Plus, six lucky students were randomly drawn to receive a thesaurus. For the librarian, it was a perfect gift for the holiday season.
"I was taken aback at how excited they were, and yes, it did seem like Christmas morning. So I hope they enjoy their gift of reading," said Maloy.
The contest was hosted by Share My Lesson, a free resource web site for teachers, and First Book, a non-profit organization that helps children in need get access to books.