DUS gives out more than 1,000 free books to middle, high school students

Published 11:25 am Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Before being let out for summer break earlier this month, students at Dowagiac Middle School and Union High School were given one last handout from their instructors — a copy of “Divergent,” the first installment of Veronica Roth’s popular young adult trilogy.

Dowagiac Union School administrators gifted nearly 1,000 copies of the novel to its sixth through 11th-grade students for the summer. By sinking their teeth into the nearly 500-page story, educators hope the book will help keep the kids’ minds active over the three-month break from their education, said Superintendent Paul Hartsig.

“My kids read it and loved it,” Hartsig said. “It’s a very popular book with teens, so it’s a high interest read.”

The giveaway came about as the result of the generosity of another organization, national nonprofit Feed the Children, which provides donated pencils, paper and office furniture to local school districts. During a recent visit to the organization’s office in Elkhart, Union Schools Maintenance Supervisor John Juroff noticed the massive stack of novels sitting inside the warehouse. When asked if the district could use them in some way, representatives with Feed the Hungry told him they could, giving him the entire stack of books.

When brainstorming how the administration could use this windfall of reading material, Deputy Superintendent Dawn Connor suggested that they give the books away for the summer to the district’s teenage students.

“As far as I know, this is the first time we distributed the same book to this many students at once,” Hartsig said. “Something tells me it’s going to be harder to pull something like this off a second or third time.”

The first book in a series of three, the superintendent hopes that kids will use the free book as a launching point to read the other two books over break, he said. Even if kids have already read the novel or watched the movie, they are encouraged to give it a reread or to share it with a sibling, cousin or friend who hasn’t gotten a chance to check it out.

“Any opportunity we can get to keep the kids learning and reading over the summer is a positive thing to take advantage of,” Hartsig said.