Book in a basket

Reading council prepares gifts to fund literacy events

Take a book, a candle, a bottle of wine and some bath oil, add a little holiday decoration, and you've got a basket ready to give as a gift.

That's what several teachers created Monday night as they organized gift baskets to be used for a silent auction at Moffat County School District schools. The money raised goes toward Sagebrush Reading Council activities throughout the year.

"I think it's a lot of fun," said Jennifer Willems, an East Elementary School first-grade teacher. "We've got some great baskets ready for Christmas."

The baskets are themed -- Clifford, wine country and chocolate for example -- with lotions, toys, home decor items and, of course, books. District teachers donated the items. Many of the books are used.

"This is normally not my forte," Willems said. "I didn't think I'd be good at basket-making. But I don't think I did too bad."

The baskets -- there are about 20 total -- are on display at local schools through Dec. 15. Julie Sperl, a third-grade teacher at East and secretary of the reading council, said anyone can bid on items, as long as school officials can reach them for payment once the auction closes.

Sperl said the gift basket silent auction is the organization's most profitable fundraiser of the year, bringing in about $600. This is the fundraiser's sixth year.

The council uses the money "to fund literacy events we put on for the kids and the general public," Sperl said.

Those activities include having books available at doctors' offices, the Northwest Colorado Dental Care clinic and preschools for children to read and take home with them. The council also purchases backpacks with books inside for children removed from homes where methamphetamine is used. The Craig Police Department administers that program.

This year, those events include bringing in children's book author Helen Lester, who wrote "Tacky the Penguin," for a presentation to elementary school students and fifth-graders Jan. 22. The council also hosts its annual Family Literacy Carnival on March 1.

Sperl said membership in the local reading council is $5, and the council will soon open membership to parents and community members. The council also plans to coordinate efforts with the Craig Rotary Club to serve children.

Willems said the basket auction is the council's main avenue for providing services to the community's youths. And those who buy the baskets benefit, too.

"I don't think people see it as a fundraiser," she said. "They just see it as an opportunity to buy gifts for people."

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