Recently hired library media specialist Yvonne Cech went to place an order for new books in June and learned that the bulk order qualified the school for a limited-time promotion of two free Amazon Kindle electronic readers.
"I sort of lucked out," she said.
The freebies started Cech and other educators thinking about ways to introduce students to the devices. On Monday, the school began circulating its collection of now eight Kindles to fourth-graders, allowing them to borrow the devices and bring them home to read.
The pilot program is the first of its kind in the district, and educators are hoping it provides a model for other school libraries in town.
"We thought it would be good to give kids exposure to the devices," Cech said. "There's a lot of interest because it's an electronic device."
While the collection began with two, the school was able to obtain more Kindle Keyboards strictly with the help of grants, officials said.
With support from principal Dawn Hochsprung, who said there was money in the cereal Box Tops for Education coupon program, and the Parent-Teacher Association, which made a mini-grant available, the school library purchased six Kindles to supplement the two it received for free through the book promotion.
"No school budget funds have been spent on this," Cech said.
After weeks of lessons during which students learned how to use the Kindles and care for the device – which Hochsprung said involved YouTube videos Cech made – the school library began lending out the devices to students to bring home for the first time Monday.
Each device has about 20 or so free titles on it – classics that can be downloaded onto the e-reader for free – as well as a few present-day titles the library bought and loaded onto the devices.
So far, the library has 64 students on the waiting list for the Kindles – the lucky six first on the list to bring home the Kindles were the first to turn in a parent permission slip as well as show they were in good standing at the library, Cech said.
Among the first fourth graders to bring home the Kindle was Colton Procaccini, 9, who was using the device to read the book, Big Nate Out Loud, Monday afternoon.
"It has its own dictionary," he said of the device. "You can go to the dictionary and look up words."
Colton said he first learned about the e-reader through the school library program, and after being exposed to it, added the Kindle to his Christmas list. He described himself as someone who loves to read, usually setting aside half an hour a day to read.
While the Kindle has features that impressed Colton, particularly the dictionary, using the device took some getting to used to, and felt a little different from the soft cover books with which he was more familiar, Colton said.
"It has a weird grip," he said of the Kindle.
In addition to being a technological step forward for the library, educators are hoping the devices will help draw out reluctant readers, giving those students more privacy in choosing which books to read whether they are at or below grade level.
"No one sees what book you are checking out," Cech said. "It's sort of an equalizer."
In addition to being the first such program in the district, the school may be the first in town. The C.H. Booth Library only has access to a collection of audiobooks, though plans are in place to have titles for e-readers available for circulation starting at the earliest in February, library director Janet Woycik said, adding officials still are in the process of evaluating the programs.
However, due to funding constraints, Woycik said the library unlikely will have money to purchase e-readers for circulation, which means borrowers would have to have access to a device before downloading titles.
Editor's note: Yvonne Cech's last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.