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Free books for kids encourage reading

Four times a year for six years a local law firm has collected then delivered books to one local school

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It was a special Friday afternoon for some local kindergarten students. They were part of an experience called Christenberry Kids. 

The reading project started six years ago.

Once again, Bill Mason and a team from Kennerly, Montgomery and Finley law firm came back at Christenberry Elementary School.

"We heard there were some kids who didn't have books in their houses so instead of loaning books we wanted them to leave each time we came with some books of theirs to read," Bill Mason said. 

Christenberry Kindergarten Teacher Tonya Cash said, "We are reaching them to read here at school but they need to practice at home as well. The more books we can get in their hands then the more practice they can have at home with their family." 

After Bill Mason (Mr. Bill to the students) finished reading a funny story with a lot of sound effects they line up to select books to keep. Two gently used books and one brand new book.

Folks at the law firm buy the new books and scour used-book stores and library sales to find the gently used children's books. 

"It's really exciting to have kindergartners learning and being interested in learning to read," he said. 

It complements another program that encourages reading. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library delivers a free book to children every month from birth to age five.

"Part of the idea was that those books stop and these kids need to continue to have books and so it is absolutely part of what we want to do to be able to continue with one more year and if there as one more year after that it would be even better," he said. 

This is the third time this year the students have enjoyed the book giveaway. Their teacher, Tonya Cash, accurately predicted how they will react.

"They start reading them right away. As soon as they get their books and they go back to their seats they start looking at the pictures and reading the words. It's just an exciting time for the kids," she said. 

Bill said, "All the people that collect the books and do all the work let me steal the limelight but of course they are doing all the work. But I thoroughly enjoy it." 

In May the students will not only receive books but also a bag of school supplies and reading incentives.

"Do as much as we can to encourage reading, writing, continuing to think about words and language over the summer," he said.