by Lisa Tome
Jesse Cloud is investing in the future of the students at Thomson Estates Elementary one book at a time.
A dozen years ago, Cloud, who now works as a general assistant at the school, and his wife, Alycia, started funding a monthly book exchange at the school. The couple spends $100-$200 per month buying gently used books for students to read.
On the first Thursday of each month during lunch shifts, students can trade up to eight books of their own, for books provided by the Clouds.
"It's important for kids to read at an early age. It all begins with reading. We support early reading and hope the kids enjoy it," said Cloud, who was setting up the book exchange last week with help from fifth grader, Michael Plante. "It comes and it goes. Some months we have 50 kids, some we have 250."
The exchange gets help from donations from school families. But the Clouds have been the constant. They also got start up help from Beth Roushe and Marilyn Schmesser.
Every month, Cloud organizes the books by grade level on tables. A box of books for advanced readers is also available. "They are reading them. The books have been stamped seven or eight times," said Cloud.
He takes requests from students for books they want. Some series, such as Captain Underpants and Harry Potter, have endured. Students are not required to bring books back to the exchange.
Cloud is also working to spread the joys of the book exchange. He is currently working as an advisor to Girl Scouts who want to establish a book exchange at Kenmore Elementary.
He said that people underestimate the commitment required in establishing and continuing a book exchange.
"I never turn a kid down. I take handwritten books and comic books," he said. "I think kids would read more if they had more options.
He also will do most anything to get children to read. He has dressed as both a woman and a ballerina, to give kids an incentive to read. "I don't mind being a clown to help kids read," he said.
He is also looking out for the future after he's gone.
"The program is in my will to keep it going," he said.
In addition to helping pay for the book exchange, Alycia Cloud also coordinates the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) distribution at Thomson Estates.