TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — There's nothing like cracking open a book and transporting into a whole new world. On Thursday, John G. Riley Elementary School students like Ja'siah Harris got the chance to feel that joy.
"It makes me feel excited or eager," he said.
It's clear that the Riley Elementary School students are excited about reading.
You may remember last fall when ABC 27 asked for donations to supply books to students at Riley.
Between the Scripps Howard Foundation, community donations and donations from ABC 27 employees, more than $26,000 is now helping every single student stock their at-home book collection.
That's something Principal Maurice Stokes said makes him proud.
"The Tallahassee community has been great Riley. We've been able to feel that love and support throughout the school year. It means the world to us to know we have people standing in our corner," he said.
Every student at Riley walked into a book fair and away with five books for free. First-grade teacher Mrs. Ivory says they could hardly contain their excitement.
"They're so excited. I couldn't even get them to calm down. They're still looking through their books and looking with their friends. They're super excited. It's like Christmas to them getting these books today," she said.
Mrs. Ivory said the book fair setup will hopefully boost the reader's confidence.
"I love that they have the choice of picking their own books and not what I give them. They're really excited to take them home and read to their mothers and fathers and little siblings," she said.
It comes at a time when learning in a different setting is important.
Throughout Leon County, 54% of students scored a satisfactory or above on their state-mandated reading tests.
In 2019, the last time the test was offered before COVID-19, the number was 61%.
"When we look at the data, we're able to see a lot of growth but they've been excited and passionate since the first day of school," said Principal Stokes.
Now Principal Stokes is highlighting how important reading is for students. He says the excitement to get new books is proof that the kids at Riley are serious about their reading.
"Our kids are amazing here at John G. Riley. I've had the opportunity to get to know the kids and families. To see our kids smile and excited about reading means the absolute world to me," he said.
The book fair continues tomorrow for third through fifth graders.
Students will get another five books for free in May.