SAN BENITO — Students at Angela G. Leal Elementary were huddled together and wearing pajamas as they waited to receive their new books.

It was pajama day at school and second-grade students listened as United Way of Northern Cameron County Development Director Kathy Preddy asked children why reading is important.

The United Way of Northern Cameron County received a donation of $7,700 to be spent on books for first and second-grade students in all San Benito elementary schools.

United Way was selected to receive the grant from First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting literacy programs.

In attendance was Superintendent Nate Carman who said it is wonderful to receive such a generous donation.

“You can see the joy on the kids’ faces. Most of our students enjoy reading and they also love getting a free gift,” Carman said.

“They all seem very excited and very happy. It is exceptionally important to stress literacy. It is the foundation for all other disciplines. Once you learn how to read you can read any type of text,” he said.

Preddy said that with this award they are able to bring new high quality books to the children of Cameron County.

“We were awarded $7,700 and we decided to distribute it to the Harlingen Consolidated School District and the San Benito Consolidated School District,” she said.

“It is putting books in the hands of children for them to share the love of reading. We are hoping we can set an example that reading is fun and reading is important in their educational journey,” Preddy said.

She said this is the first time they have received a grant of this size.

“This was way beyond what we have received before,” she said.

They have received grants and donations from families and organizations but not enough to cover as many children as this time.

The books are chosen by the educational experts within the districts.

“Jessica and I would like to thank Delia Cornett, Director of Elementary Instruction of SBCISD and Carmen Alvarez, Director of Primary Literacy at HCISD for selecting the grade levels at their school districts for the selection and distribution of books,” she said.