Students at Henry Raab Elementary School in Belleville are collecting new and gently used books to send to children in the African country of Namibia.
"Some of children down there don't have any books to read," said 11-year-old Kendric Carpenter, a fifth-grader at the school.
"It's going to help people learn to read if they don't know how," said fifth-grader Katie Wilkerson, 11.
Kendric and Katie's fifth grade class taught by Nicole Deihl and Kim Showalter's second-grade class are leading the service-learning project called the Opportunity for Children to Help Others, known as the OCHO project.
Katie explained a service-learning project is about "helping people and learning something at the same time."
In order to tell the entire school about the project, second-grader Koi Birch, 7, said they made presentations to all the different classes, and each class got a box outside of their classroom for the book donations.
Fifth-grader Kevin Kraft, 10, also said they made posters about the project and put them up around the school. The students sent letters seeking donations to local businesses as well.
Businesses and residents interested in donating books can drop them off at the school located at 1120 Union Avenue in Belleville. Second-grader Avita Hall, 8, said she thinks the children in Namibia will enjoy chapter books the most, because "they are longer and you can read them more."
In addition to gathering books, the fifth and second grade classes are also collecting money to be used to purchase books for every student at Henry Raab during the May 9 book fair.
Second-grader Preston Beltran, 8, said they are raising the money in several different ways including selling smencils, scented pencils, and popcorn for 25 cents a bag.
Showalter said about $850 has been raised, which includes a $500 grant from OCHO, and four boxes of books have been collected. The school plans to ship the books to Namibia the end of May.
To encourage students to donate books, spirit days are held every two weeks. Kendric said students who donate a book can participate in the spirit day, which has included a wacky dress day and a snack day -- where students could eat snacks during class.
The school was encouraged to participate in OCHO by one of its creators, Marilyn Perlyn of Delray Beach, Fla., who Showalter met in the fall during a trip to Washington, D.C., when Henry Raab was recognized as a 2012 National School of Character.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or email@example.com.