SANTA CLARITA — A Canyon Country elementary school is donating nearly 1,000 old textbooks to Midwest schools hit by floods in what officials hope is a practical lesson in charity for students.
"We want them to feel they can make a difference," said Janet Wiese, principal of Skyblue Mesa Elementary School. "So often children don't think that they can have an effect on the world around them."
Wiese secured permission from trustees of the Saugus Union School District to give away the outdated books last week. The students will also enclose photographs and letters with books to initiate a pen pal program.
Shoshone Willis, 10, wrote, "What happened when the flood came? . . . I hope you are all right."
The English, math and science books being donated by the school carry optimistic and upbeat titles such as "Rainbow World," "Magic Times" and "Secrets and Surprises," school officials said.
The volumes will join thousands of other Los Angeles County schoolbooks, which were on the cutting edge of education less than a decade ago but now considered outdated, that are enjoying a second life in foreign countries and other U.S. school districts.
"For the most part, they are either donated to other countries or organizations that may need them," according to Zhita Rea, library consultant for the Los Angeles County office of education.
Education codes prohibit districts from selling old textbooks for a profit or giving them to any agency that would in turn make money by selling them. Districts can sell the books for enough money to cover the expenses of getting rid of them, such as postage costs.
"In the past when we've had an abundance of books, sometimes we've donated them to needy areas in Mexico," Wiese said.
There are a few nonprofit agencies that collect books to swap with school districts that could use them, Rea said.
Books become obsolete at different rates, depending upon subject matter. Science texts can become outdated quickly, while the information in spelling books is still valid.
But changes in state curriculum can make almost any book an old book, said Steve Horowitz, communications officer for the Los Angeles County office of education. In California, the maximum life of a "new" book is usually about eight years.
After purchasing $80,000 worth of new science materials, trustees of the Sulphur Springs School District last week declared more than 3,000 of the old science books obsolete.