‘It’s been a tough time right now’: Costa Vida to host book drive, fundraiser for LaVerkin Elementary

LaVerkin Elementary School students' backpacks show off buttons for how many books they've read this year, LaVerkin, Utah, March 25, 2021 | Photo courtesy of LaVerkin Elementary School, St. George News.

ST. GEORGE — Teaching a child to read is one thing – instilling a lifelong love of reading is something far greater, an idea that prompted a fundraiser and book drive that will take place next week for LaVerkin Elementary.

LaVerkin Elementary School principal Steve Leavenworth poses with a Harry Potter-themed reading chart at LaVerkin Elementary in LaVerkin, Utah, March 25, 2021 | Photo courtesy of LaVerkin Elementary School, St. George News

As a way to help the elementary school, the Hurricane location of the Mexican food chain Costa Vida organized an event to be held Wednesday. The community is invited to bring their family to the restaurant, have dinner and donate books. Costa Vida already donated $100 worth of books and will donate 20% of the proceeds from the dining event to LaVerkin Elementary so they can purchase more. 

“It’s been a tough time right now for schools. They haven’t been able to raise any money,” Jackie Thomassen, Costa Vida’s Southern Utah catering sales manager, told St. George News. “Costa Vida wanted to reach out to the schools and make sure that the community was able to start building up their accounts so that they could do more stuff for the kids coming in next year.”

Thomassen came up with the idea for a book drive after meeting with LaVerkin Elementary Principal Steve Leavenworth, who told her about the school’s book series challenge. Leavenworth told St. George News the school has been challenging its kindergarten through fifth grade students to read as many book series as they can throughout the school year. So far, students have read more than 20,000 books.

“Obviously we want to teach a love of reading. Sometimes we’re just teaching the ‘how-to,’ and the love gets lost in the shuffle,” Leavenworth said, adding that their goal is to try to have the community “help us help our kids love reading.”

By giving the kids a challenge and some competition, the hope was to make reading fun for kids, he said. Whenever a student finishes a book, they take a quiz to show what they learned, and that counts as a “bookmark” on their record. Students also get buttons after they’ve read a certain number of books and a chance to be featured on the school’s Monday morning news channel, a video that every class watches weekly. 

The reason the students are reading series instead of individual books is to keep them interested in reading, Leavenworth said. 

“Some of our kids, if they read a book, they’re like, ‘What do I read next?’” he said. “The more words we can get in front of them, all it can do is help.”

A LaVerkin Elementary School student’s backpack shows off how many books they’ve read this year, LaVerkin, Utah, March 25, 2021 | Photo courtesy of LaVerkin Elementary School, St. George News.

The school is asking for specific book series in which the students have shown interest. The list includes the following:

  • “Owl Diaries” by Rebecca Elliott
  • “Wings of Fire” by Tui T. Sutherland
  • “The Alien Next Door” by A.I. Newton
  • “The Land of Stories” by Chris Colfer
  • “Star Wars: Jedi Academy” by Jeffrey Brown
  • “The 13-Story Treehouse” by Andy Griffiths

LaVerkin Elementary teachers and staff will be behind the counter at Costa Vida to help serve and greet customers on the night of the event. Students are encouraged to come with their families. There will be a designated bin where people can leave books if they choose to donate. Costa Vida will also be raffling off gift cards. 

“We love our community and their support,” Leavenworth said. “Really it’s just about the community coming together to have a good time. I look forward to seeing families, which we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to do in the midst of it all. … At Costa Vida, some of the money will come back to the school and directly impact kids. It will be set aside to get books for kids. Talking about books is just frosting on top.”

The fundraiser will take place from 5-8 p.m. April 7 at 845 State St. in Hurricane.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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