Pallets of scholastic books were unloaded outside Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in New Bedford's north end Wednesday morning and presented to dozens of eager fourth graders. 

A total of 12,000 English and Spanish books were donated by the Ocean State Job Lot Charitable Foundation to Lincoln and Hathaway Schools.

"We'll be using the Spanish books here but we're also benefiting from [books for] our Hathaway School where we have a large number of students with English Language Learners, so either way New Bedford Public Schools are benefiting from this great donation," said Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin.

David Sarlitto, executive director of Ocean State Job Lot, said the program evolved after visiting communities in which his stores are located throughout New England and listening to concerns over early education.

"There were an awful lot of schools that had empty libraries and they were talking about children having home libraries that had the same old book in them, so I said 'well, if I can my hands on millions of books, can we distribute them?' said Sarlitto. "So we developed this program called the 'Book Drop.'"

Over 20 book drops have been conducted in just over a year's time across Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell took time to remind the students to expand their minds this summer vacation.

"I challenged the kids to read more," Mitchell said. "Everybody should read something they want to read, not just what they're required to read, and we really want to cultivate a love of reading and learning among our students."

Sarlitto also struck a deal with the assembled students, telling them whenever they need some new books, just to ask and he'll be happy to drop off another thousand or two.

Greg Desrosiers/TSM