Students in Hebron read to raise thousands for those in need

HEBRON -- Students at Hebron Elementary School have read thousands of books to raise money for those in need all over the world. They're taking part in Read to Feed a program to benefit Heifer International.

The way the program works is by having students ask family and community members to be their sponsor. The sponsor chooses a dollar amount for each book the student reads. The more books completed, the more money the student adds to the fundraising total.

The program was introduced to the school by 4th grade teacher, Kristin Lasko.

“Not only are their reading skills strengthening but the books that they are reading are having a lasting positive impact on families around the world,” Lasko said.

The money raised is used to purchase livestock, colonies of bees, bio-gas stoves, or education opportunities through Heifer International. The organization focuses on raising people out of poverty in all corners of the globe, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The organization explains their efforts as a way to helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty.

“Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market,” according to Heifer International’s website.

“It’s very similar to the idea instead giving someone a fish, teach them to fish, they can eat for a lifetime,” said Liz Ellis, the local Community Engagement Coordinator for Heifer International.

Hebron Elementary School’s participation in Read to Feed including with seven classes last year, allowing them to raise $5,050.  This year the effort went school-wide upping their total to $7,400 which will be doubled through a group supporting Heifer's efforts with a dollar-for-dollar program going on this spring.

The students came together as a school to decide what to purchase with that money raised.  They chose two cows, two sheep, two oxen, two water buffalo, two pigs, two beehives, two goats, two donkeys, six ducks, six guinea pigs, two flocks of geese, two flocks of chicks, two llamas, and two schools of fish.  The students also had enough money raised to send five girls currently living in extreme poverty to school.

“We have a call back in our classroom and I’ll say ‘changing the world’ and they respond, ‘one book at a time’ and that’s a constant reminder for them that the work that they are doing is making a huge difference,” Lasko said.

Lasko was inspired to get the program going at her school after reading the children’s book “Beatrice’s Goat.”

“Which tells the story about a young girl who received a goat from Heifer International and was able to earn enough money to put herself through school,” Lasko said.

Beatrice’s real life journey took her from her poverty stricken home in Yuganda to Connecticut. Her goat, donated by a church group in Niantic, became a source of income and provided offspring for her to share with others in her community. She later received her degree from Connecticut College.

Beatrice’s story and achievement is now inspiring students in Hebron to set their reading goals high.

“My aunt’s giving me 2-dollars a book and then 3-dollars when I read 20 books. It makes me feel awesome, like I’m trying to save up for a cow, and I hope I reach that goal,” 6th grader, Aiden Rizzotti, said.

“If we read it would change people’s lives and I’m really happy about that,” Butterfield added.