PATTERSON — It’s not likely that a room full of middle school kids would go wild for a few boxes of new textbooks. And it’s even less likely that five minutes later, a couple of the students would be showing their principal how to use them.
But that’s essentially what happened in a Creekside Middle School classroom Friday, when Amazon.com Inc. delivered 50 Kindle Fire HD electronic reader devices with $2,500 in gift cards to fill them up with content.
“We opened up in September, and we wanted to get involved with the community,” said Sam Kennedy, community relations and communications specialist for Amazon. The Internet retail giant opened a million-square-foot distribution center in Keystone Business Park last year.
Amazon representatives got in touch with officials at the Patterson Joint Unified School District, which led to Friday’s event – a surprise for the students, who are members of the school’s special education program.
Dave Hodge, the district’s director of special education, said the Kindles have an important role to play in the students’ education.
“We’re looking at it as literature tailored to the individual student,” he said. A student who reads at a third-grade level wouldn’t necessarily want to be seen carrying around a book that clearly advertises that fact. “With a Kindle, no one knows.”
Having electronic versions of the books also will allow the students to develop their skills at their own pace and have the next book at the ready when they’re prepared for it.
And there is the cool factor.
“Kids enjoy technology,” Hodge said. “This is only going to enhance their education.”
They certainly enjoyed it Friday. Manny Eleyae, senior operations manager for the Patterson distribution center, led the students in a “rumble” – a cheer accompanied by hands banged on the desks.
Then preselected volunteers opened the boxes to find the surprises inside and, with help from several Amazon employees, distributed the Kindles to the assembled students.
The devices will be available for use in the classroom daily, principal Kerry McAllister said. Though the Amazon employees were on hand to help the students get started, it didn’t appear they needed much help.
“I knew this was going to be a big deal,” Hodge said, looking around the room as delighted middle schoolers excitedly got acquainted with their new Kindles. “But I absolutely didn’t expect this.”