By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Students at South Baker Intermediate School were treated to a free book this week thanks to community donations.

The program is called REAL, which stands for Read Everyday And Learn. Every year, REAL serves more than 1,500 students from preschool to grade 6 by providing volunteers to read with 100 children.

REAL also gives away 3,000 free books, mainly in the younger grades.

This year, that giveaway was extended to novels and nonfiction for students in grades 4-6 (these books are typically more expensive than books for younger readers). On Monday, during South Baker’s field day celebrating the end of school, every class spent time in the library to choose a free book.

“I’m getting good feedback from the kids,” said Jim Tomlinson, literacy coordinator.

The funds for this extra book event came from contributions that were given in memory of Jodie Averett, who died Sept. 4, 2017.

Jodie and her husband, Tom, have been active volunteer readers with the REAL program.

After choosing a book, students went to the library’s front counter to write their name inside the cover. Nearby were two photos — one a portrait of Jodie, and the other a snapshot of her competing in 2015 at the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nevada.

Faith Plummer, South Baker librarian, presented Tom with a plaque honoring the Averetts’ volunteer contribution over the years.

About the program

REAL’s budget is about $25,000 per year, Tomlinson said. Of that amount, two-thirds comes from grants and the rest from individuals, businesses and service clubs.

The program serves children in 16 schools, social services, and health agencies.

A volunteer crew of about 35 read with more than 100 children each week during the school year. The program also works with children during the school district’s Summer Academy.

How to help

Volunteers read with students either one-on-one or in a small group for 30 to 60 minutes per week. A volunteer form is available on the website

Monetary, tax-deductible donations can be made to the program in care of the Baker County Library, 2400 Resort St., Baker City, OR 97814.

For more information, visit the website or contact Tomlinson by phone at 541-519-4740 or email, .