NAUGATUCK — Elizabeth Saddig, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Hillside Intermediate School, thought she knew just what the children of Newtown needed after last month’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“I felt bad for the little kids,” Elizabeth said. “Books get them out of real life and it brings them to a new world.”
With the help of her family and Mayoral Aide Ed Carter, Elizabeth began to collect age-appropriate books for the students in kindergarten through fourth grade who started again Thursday at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Monroe. Donation boxes have been set up in the Town Hall lobby and at the People’s United Bank inside Stop & Shop on Rubber Avenue.
Elizabeth and her mother, Kerry Saddig, want more new and lightly-used books to be donated in the borough before they are delivered next week to the Newtown school superintendent. Kerry Saddig said she will screen the books for age-appropriateness and weed out any that are not cheerful enough.
“I don’t want scary books for the kids,” Kerry Saddig said. “I want them to be lighthearted.”
Books that might require too high a reading level could be donated to the public library in Newtown for a memorial reading corner, Kerry Saddig said.
A box was also set up in East Haven, where the Saddigs lived until eight years ago, and has already been filled with about 150 books, Kerry Saddig said. The boxes in the borough have been collecting some thin books, including titles from Magic School Bus, I Can Read! and Mercer Mayer.
A fourth drop station has been set up in Masonicare At Newtown, 139 Toddy Hill Road in Sandy Hook, where Kerry Saddig works as a nurse in the outpatient clinic.
Many of Saddig’s co-workers have children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but they all survived, she said.
“Many of them lost friends,” Saddig said.
Saddig came home from work that day thinking, like her daughter, that she wanted to do something to help, but Elizabeth was the one who thought of a book drive.
“Teddy bears was taken, and then school supplies,” Saddig said. “She’s compassionate beyond her years.”
Elizabeth, who also helped organize a petition drive three years ago to keep Salem Elementary School open when the Board of Education was debating its closure, said she loves to read.
Since she started the book drive, she said, classmates have been asking about it and teachers have been giving her hugs and telling her they were proud of her.
Elizabeth said she was looking forward to brightening a day in the life of children who have been through a traumatizing ordeal.
“They’re not going to be, like, screaming, but they’re going to be pretty excited,” Elizabeth said.