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United Way book giveaway

From left, Brendan Nelson, Hugh Walksalong and Dale Jefferson read a book they received from the United Way at Ponderosa School on Friday morning.

A snowman story proved a fitting choice for United Way's annual book giveaway to local kindergartners.

As snow fell Friday morning, United Way employees and volunteers from First Interstate Bank delivered books to 10 schools that serve a high proportion of low-income families, including Lanita Barnhart's class at Ponderosa Elementary. 

Students' reactions ranged from "so cool" to "so cold," as Dale Jefferson noted the books that had been sitting in cold vehicles. 

Silvana Hackett of United Way read through "Snowman Magic" Afterward, several students shared their own snowman anecdotes. 

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"They're just learning how to read, and having a book of their own is like a prize," Barnhart said. Each student claimed a book by writing his or her name on it. 

United Way is part of Graduation Matters, a school and community coalition that aims to raise graduation rates. A significant body of research shows that students who fall behind early in reading never catch up in later grades and are less likely to graduate. 

"Getting kids ready to graduate starts this young," said Teal Whitaker of United Way. 

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