- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Breaking every library’s rule, dozens of students shouted in the middle of Pohakea Elementary School’s library in early September, but what they shouted would make any librarian’s day.

When asked what they wanted to do, they screamed: “Read!”

The excitement was generated by Ohana100, a new nonprofit that gives out free books as part of a youth literacy program called “Go! Read.”

Each student at the Ewa Beach school - about 600 of them - received a free book during National Literacy Month, Reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday.

Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka gave out the books while adorned in lei to celebrate his 91st birthday.

Akaka, a former educator, said he felt “tremendous” about giving away books through the program and said he wanted to continue helping children, especially at the beginning of their lives.

He recalled how sometimes a child expressed surprise at receiving one of the program’s free books.

“I want them to feel the impact of owning their own book,” he said.

Akaka’s visit to Pohakea was noteworthy because he was the school’s first principal and chose the school’s name when it opened in the 1960s. Pohakea means “to give forth light,” an allusion to enlightenment.

“I always felt that education was enlightenment,” said Akaka, who recalled his surprise at the Department of Education accepting his suggestion for the name. “I wanted the school to be enlightenment to the students.”

At the event, dozens of children threw up both hands when Ohana100 co-founder Elizabeth Mattson asked, “Who likes to read?” And they shouted out why reading is important to them: “You learn,” ”Get smarter” and “It turns on your brain.”

Since the end of 2014, Ohana100 has given away 5,500 books to children on Oahu and Hawaii island through about 45 schools and organizations.

The nonprofit, which was registered in Hawaii this year, was founded by Akaka’s grandson David Mattson and his wife, Elizabeth, of Buffalo, New York.

The Mattsons created Ohana100 because they enjoyed giving away books with another organization in New York and wanted to do the same in Hawaii.

Elizabeth Mattson said the organization’s name is a nod to bringing a family together through literacy and dedicating 100 percent of the group’s proceeds to promoting literacy and bettering the community.

Besides “Go! Read,” the organization also has an initiative called “Go! KDWT,” for “kids doing wonderful things,” to promote community service.

“It’s not just about receiving,” Elizabeth Mattson said. “The best way, just like reading, to teach kids about how to give back is (to do it) at a young age.”

Third-grader Ceydie Whitfield, 8, showed off her new book, “Minnie & Daisy Best Friends Forever,” after the event.

“I think I’ll read it a lot of times,” she said.

Fifth-grader Cydni Reiny, 10, said she felt “really blessed” to receive a free book.

“I think this is going to be an interesting book for me to read,” she said. “Every time I read it, I’ll remember about this thing. I’m going to remember the first principal (of Pohakea).”

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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