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Sacred Heart Students Surprise Bridgeport Kids With Books

Madison School third-graders in Bridgeport hold up the free books they'll take home, thanks to a book drive at Sacred Heart University of Fairfield. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Sacred Heart University students Jacqueline Passariello, left, and Maggie Hayes, right, show some of the books they donated to Madison Elementary School in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Budding readers at Madison Elementary School in Bridgeport will be bringing home free gently used books this week, thanks to a spur-of-the-moment book drive by some caring students at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

Senior Jacqueline Passariello of New Jersey was working with Madison students during a service learning class two weeks ago, when she noticed the school was having a book fair. She asked one third-grader which books he wanted to buy.

“The boy told Jackie, ‘I love to read, but I have no money to buy books at the book fair,” said Valerie Wherley, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of exercise science who teaches the course.

That didn’t sit well with Passariello, who sprang to action, collecting old children’s books she and her brother loved for the school. Soon the whole exercise science class, the faculty and members of Delta Zeta, Passariello’s sorority, got involved.

“Some were from students, some were from Goodwill,” said senior Maggie Hayes, of Stratford.

“It’s an easy fix,” Passariello said. “And they want to read!”

On Monday, members of the class stopped at Madison to drop off well over 100 books, which will be grouped by reading level and distributed throughout the school, said Principal Rebecca Cabrera.

“It was going to be just a few and it kind of snowballed,” she said. “It’s great to see how volunteerism spirals like that.”

The exercise science class is focused on pediatric issues, so they have been putting in service learning hours at Madison for several years now, teaching children about the positive effects of exercise on the human body, Wherley said.

“They bring what they’re learning in the classroom to real life,” she said.

Tracey WIlliams, the physical education teacher who works with the Sacred Heart students, brought some her third-graders down to the office to check out the donated books.

“This is just really sweet,” she said.

Noah Acuna and Reilly Esquilin craned their necks to see which books they’d like to take home. Acura grabbed one from the “Fly Guy” series.

“I haven’t read 'Fly Guy' for a long time,” he said. “It looks like I haven’t read this one at all.”

Esquilin chose a book from the ever-popular “Captain Underpants” series.

“They’re hilarious,” he said. “They have lots of funny actions in them.”

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