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MERIDIAN -- Books. We need them to learn and grow. So the kids at Paramount Elementary School decided to donate their gently used books to kids who don't have access to them.

For the past two summers, teacher Mary Thomas has spent time volunteering for a teachers helping teachers program in Belize.

We taught them reading, writing language and science workshops, and then in the afternoon, we had electives, said Thomas. I did fall in love with it.

But the conditions there are poor, and the kids go without. Even in the classroom.

They don't have crayons and markers, pencils and books, said Thomas. I teach PE and health but reading is so important and I thought how can I help? One of the ways is books.

Last year, Thomas decided she wanted to send some books to the students there. So she asked for help, right here at Paramount.

I just said, hey, we're having a book fair here. Come buy your new books, drop off your gently used books.

The kids stepped up, bringing in more than 1,500 books.

We just had a book shelf there, bring them in, put them on the shelf, said Thomas. Pretty soon we're into boxes and boxes and boxes.

The next hurdle was finding the money to ship the books to Belize.Some of the students did jobs around the house to raise a portion of the shipping money, while others dug into their piggy banks.

I already had some money and I guess it was the only money I had so I gave it to them, said 7-year-old Harris Barry.

Thomas says the kids' fundraiser, was a complete surprise. They did that all behind my back, I didn't know it was going on until someone in PE said we have a secret and we can't tell you. One day they came into PE and handed me a check.

The books arrived in Belize this summer and a school now has its first library, all thanks to the kids at Paramount Elementary School.

The kids brought in so many books, Miss Thomas still has 12 boxes to ship to Belize. Right now, she's trying to raise money to do that.

For more information on how you can help, call Paramount Elementary School at 350-4120.

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