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Making a Difference for Young Readers

A honey-colored full moon rose over snow covered fields against the silhouette of pine trees on the northern Palouse. It was early November. Winter had already arrived in northern Idaho as the Lottery kicked-off the first day of their annual Bucks for Books school deliveries. During the fall, a Lottery Team comprised of Public Relations, Community Ambassadors, Lottery Sales Representatives and a film crew embarked on a 21 day, 23 school tour of the Gem State, making 18 Bucks for Books deliveries and five Classroom Wishlist visits. Calling on schools from the population centers to the far reaches of Idaho’s woodlands, they found one consistent theme from town to town: community is family.

Most often, the schools were in small rural towns, perhaps none more so than Timberline School located on a gentle rise halfway between Pierce and Weippe. Weippe is a small farming town on the Weippe Prairie. The nearest traffic light is 69 miles away in Lewiston. There are no streetlights at night and the vintage gas pump at the local store is not digital; it’s a “pump then pay” machine.

Weippe was covered in icy snow when they visited, but the cold outside was quickly warmed by familiar, friendly faces. The school received SIPPS Intervention Reading Packets to help struggling young readers in all academic areas. But listening to Katrina Morris, the school’s interventionist, “It’s more than this. It’s about community. And community here is like family. Our school library is the library resource for the community. They depend on us. This is the place I went to school and my children go here now. We are trying to do everything we can to make them productive members of society and life-long learners. Excellent reading skills are at the heart of this philosophy.”

Tiimberline set the tone for the entourage’s tour. Whether it was the timberlands of Priest Lake Elementary, the cozy reading nooks at Kimberly Elementary, or the frozen farm fields surrounding Monticello Montessori in Ammon, community and family were at the heart of every visit.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Team Lottery delivered books to Monticello Montessori in Ammon and arrived on a bitterly cold, wind-blown snowy morning in eastern Idaho. Undeterred, they found their way to the school’s library located in back half of an outdoor portable behind the school’s main building and next to the Lacrosse field (where students were still practicing). Students had to bundle up in their winter coats, hats, gloves, snow bibs and boots to make their once-weekly trek to the portable for library time.

Inside, the library room was spacious yet sparse, with more room for students than books on the shelves. After the presentation, one student, a 2nd grader named Carter, was so excited that he ran from portable to portable, then back to the main building exclaiming to everyone, “The book teacher got a check for $2,000! To buy us books!”

During the final stop in Blaine County, after the team had already canvassed nearly 2,100 miles over three weeks, they visited Miss Patti Gilman, the librarian at Bellevue Elementary. “I have a great love of books after 20 years being a librarian. I want to install that love with them. Encourage the love of reading.”

It’s working. The dismissal bell rang for the end of the day, but not a single student left to rush home. Instead, they were climbing over each other, arguing with one another over who would get which one of the news books the Lottery team had just delivered.

Miss Patti’s library was certainly unique, with an old farm-style schoolhouse façade to welcome students and comfortable couches and reading niches to provide a comfortable, relaxing, enjoyable atmosphere to read.

“It’s like family. My kids went to school here and I went here. The small-town beauty of living here is that we all know each other. We like each other. Like a big family,” added Patti. “Our library is the resource in town for them. Reading opens up everything. From reading recipes to reading for fun.”

From replacing old, well-worn books to new book acquisition, the cost of obtaining new books for young, enthusiastic readers is becoming more expensive. Many young students have limited access to the public library (if one exists in the community at all) and their parents often lack the time to take their child there. And while students may get as much as one hour a week in the library, for many, that’s the only library time.

That’s where programs like Bucks for Books and Classroom Wishlist from the Idaho Lottery are really making a difference. Just this fiscal year, Bucks for Books delivered $50,000 across 19 school libraries, while Classroom Wishlist has provided $51,500 to 23 schools since July.

As the sunset casts a soft purple alpenglow across Idaho’s mountains and the finishing touches of the Lottery’s 2022 school initiatives, perhaps this year more than any we are reminded of why the Lottery was created: to make a difference one school at a time and to DO GOOD for our community, for our family. And Idaho is the Lottery’s family.