Free Books Heading To South Mississippi

"Johnny could fly and...", one little boy started reading, then stopped.

"Sound it out", his teacher told him.

While some are still struggling with words, others love to show off their literary skills. Members of the Forest Heights Boys and Girls Club in Gulfport are trying to carry on their summer reading program, even though Katrina destroyed their building.

"The fact that you're here today, wanting to be a part something so much bigger and better, says something to me," said Ann Hancock with the U.S. Education Department. "I'm so proud of you".

The U.S. Department of Education and First Book announced they are handing out 250,000 books to Mississippi and four other hurricane-battered states. They call the program The Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative. On Monday, they made the first delivery of 400 books to the Forest Heights children.

"We do books and we love books," said Kit Lunney with First Books. "We thought well, clearly, it's important that people have food, and water and they have shelter. Those are the immediate things. But as you start to rebuild, books are a critical component for younger kids who have not yet learned how to read."

The donations will help restock shelves that were left bare by the storm. More importantly, they encourage children to embrace books and continue learning, even when they're out of school. Schools, libraries, and literacy organizations in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Florida can receive free books by applying online. Click here to learn how.