First-grader Aileen Siles could barely carry the three books she selected out of the thousands to choose from Monday at Whittier Elementary School in Costa Mesa.
The 7-year-old repeatedly walked up and down the aisles, perusing the books on display on the school's blacktop before picking three Disney princess books, including one that came with a CD.
Aileen was among 700 students who were invited to browse the stacks of literature during a book giveaway presented by The Molina Foundation, a Long Beach-based nonprofit. The event, designed to promote summer reading, also included book readings and other activities for students.
Books were separated by reading age, and students were encouraged to take their time before choosing. Kindergartners through second-graders were allowed to choose three books; third- through sixth-graders could take two.
"We've made a commitment to build libraries at home," said Scott Wilcox, principal at Whittier Elementary. "The amount of books at home can be correlated to how well they're reading."
Wilcox said the school has partnered for past book giveaways with the PTA and other organizations. The goal is to provide students with "something to do after a day of summer excitement."
Rick de la Torre, communications coordinator for The Molina Foundation, said the nonprofit's mission is to encourage independent reading and help curb the "summer slide," when students lose reading and math skills during the seasonal break..
Popular choices among students Monday included "Star Wars" comics and Disney books.
Fourth-grader Adhair Lopez, 10, said it was a "difficult decision" to make his selections: "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones" and "Streetball Crew Book Two: Stealing the Game" by Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Adhair ended up choosing them because they deal with his two favorite things: "Star Wars" and basketball.
Third-grader Vanessa Gonalez, 9, chose "Mal's Diary" and "Mal's Spell Book" by Disney Book Group. The books are spin-offs of "Descendants", a movie about the teenage daughters and sons of evil Disney characters such as Jafar and Cruella De Vil.
"I like reading because it makes me smarter," Vanessa said as she flipped through her new books with her friends. "I learn new words and then I recognize it when I see it in other places."