Acworth Police Department gives free book to every student at McCall Primary School

A child reads to a dog from Mostly Mutts, a rescue organization, during McCall Primary School's Literacy Night -- photo by Sierra Hubbard

Acworth police officers handed out free books to children at McCall Primary School after months of collecting donations, culminating in more than 400 brand new books for the students.

At McCall’s annual Family Literacy Night on Thursday, Aug. 31, several uniformed officers helped kids and their parents choose from the vast array of fiction, pop-up, nonfiction, coloring and activity books spread across the table.

Catherine Kahoro helps her daughter, Tasha, pick out a free book, courtesy of the Acworth Police Department — photo by Sierra Hubbard

Sgt. Lisa Montcalm organized the book collection in the spring. After working as a patrol officer on the roads for 13 years, Montcalm was transferred to an administrative position in January, working in the office. She was inspired to use her new role to make a positive change.

“I wanted to do something for the community, and I really love books and reading,” Montcalm said. “I thought it might be nice to give every child at this school a new book.”

Leadership at McCall recommended that the police department collaborate with the school to deliver the books at the annual Family Literacy Night in August, so that became the goal of the book drive. Some residents donated new books and others offered money to the department, but Montcalm said one donor came to the rescue at the last minute and asked not to be named.

“I was stressed out there for a while, and then all of a sudden an angel came in and donated and made it happen for us,” Montcalm said. “I was glad that I could come in and deliver what we promised.”

The Acworth Police Department collected just over 400 books, which was about 50 more than what was needed to give one to every student at McCall.

“I’m extremely proud of our people … who think to come up with an idea like this, to reach out and touch our community and these children,” said Acworth Police Chief Wayne Dennard.

A young McCall Primary School student chooses her free book during Family Literacy Night — photo by Sierra Hubbard

Kelli Stagich, an academic coach, was one of the organizers of the Family Literacy Night. She has worked at McCall since it first opened and said that Acworth police officers have always been active in school-sponsored events. Stagich pointed out that, while book swaps and trades are common, this donation was a rare occurrence.

“We’ve never just given such nice books to every child,” Stagich said. “We were so excited.”

The annual literacy night, she explained, is meant to emphasize the reading for kindergarteners and first-graders.

“Our goal is to let the parents see what the kids are doing at school so that they can help at home,” Stagich said.

Aside from the free books handed out by the Acworth Police Department, students and their parents could explore several stations with literacy-themed games and activities. Some focused on technology, like iPads and robotic mice, while others involved old-fashioned crafts or used LEGO blocks to spell words.

Down one hallway, children could sign up to read to a dog. Mostly Mutts, a rescue organization, brought a few dogs to which the students could read a book. There were also visitors from Canine Companions for Independence, which provides assistance dogs to those with disabilities at no charge. Both organizations offered information about how reading to a pet can improve a child’s confidence in their reading ability.

Next year, Stagich said the theme of McCall’s Family Literacy Night will likely be something akin to the Wizard of Oz.