NORTH CANTON  High School students from the Teaching Professions program and the Educators Rising club held a book drive in February. Students in the program put collection boxes in all of the elementary schools, the middle schools and the high school to collect new or slightly used books for kids aged birth through fifth grade.

In just one month, the two groups collected 1,786 books to donate to the Early Childhood Resource Center (ECRC) in Canton. This is the fourth year the students participated in the book drive and donation.

Students from two other districts, Perry High School and GlenOak High School, also collected books in February. Students from all three districts joined together to deliver the books to the ECRC on March 14. Hoover High School Assistant Principal Robert White joined all of the students and teachers to help unload books.

Teaching Professions is a career and technical program where the students will go to college after graduating high school to pursue a teaching degree. Shirley Dobry is a teacher in the Teaching Professions II and she said students in the program want to major in education and many join the Ohio chapter of the national group called Educators Rising.

"This is an annual district-wide book drive, we publicize it through social media and the school’s newsletter and we usually collect well over 1,000 books each year," Dobry said.

Hoover senior Hannah Hoehn is in her second year in the program and said she wants to be an intervention specialist for early childhood.

"It’s important for the kids to have their own books, it encourages learning and it helps them create their own self-awareness," Hoehn said. "We collected books of all types because the books will go to kids of a variety of ages who have a variety of interests."

The books will be distributed through the Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) program at the ECRC. The program provides new books every month, fun and educational activities, backpacks with school supplies, family newsletters, parenting tips and a parent partner who visits families in their homes once a month. The parent partner is a professional who helps the families share school readiness activities, helps parents guide their child’s development and helps link families with other resources to support their children’s needs.

SPARK Director Mary Brady said the books are vitally needed for the participants in the program. SPARK is serving 1,000 families in Stark County.

"The books are a bridge with parents and children and supports the importance of literacy which is the gateway to life, children need good reading skills to complete the many other classes they take in school," Brady said. "Many of the homes we go into have little or no reading material for children, these books will provide many children in the program with his or her own book. The books are a mix of fiction and nonfiction because a child needs exposure to all kinds of reading materials."