CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Donors gave more than 10,000 books to The Charleston Gazette's Happy Valentine's Children's Book Drive. "Books are so important," Gazette Publisher Elizabeth E. Chilton said when she created the drive this winter to gather new and used books to share with children who do not have enough books of their own. It succeeded beyond anyone's expectation. Readers responded immediately, dropping off bags and boxes of board books, picture books, chapter books, teen novels and all kinds of science, poetry, math, history, geography, religion and art books during the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day. Both the Putnam County and Kanawha County public libraries agreed to be drop-off points for the convenience of donors. Sacred Heart Grade School in Charleston took on the drive as part of its community service for Catholic Schools Week. The state Division of Natural Resources dropped off four boxes of Wild, Wonderful West Virginia magazine. Read Aloud West Virginia and Children's Home Society of West Virginia agreed to be partners in the drive to distribute the books to children who need them. By the end of February, Children's Home Society had shared books with children in Wheeling, Clarksburg, Beckley, Charleston, Logan, Huntington, Parkersburg, Lewisburg, Princeton, Summersville, and Lincoln and McDowell counties. Read Aloud received a load of books last week, and plans to give some to families who participate in Snuggle & Read, local events where families assemble warm fleece blankets and take home books to read together. Donated books may also be used in a trial program this summer to give students books of their choice to take home over summer break. "This is book ownership," said Read Aloud Executive Director Mary Kay Bond. "This is the foundation of that personal library that is so important." Much research shows that reading to children from birth helps them to grow into good readers themselves on schedule, somewhere around first grade. Children who read well are able to handle schoolwork and tend to go farther in school. One 2010 study by a University of Nevada sociology professor found that the number of books in a child's home influenced educational attainment. Children in families with 500 or more books averaged 3.2 more years of school than those without books. Even personal libraries of as little as 20 books made a significant difference, researchers found. The results were true across 27 countries and in families rich or poor, whether parents were educated or not. The last truckload of about 1,000 donated books will be passed on to the partner organizations this week. Reach Dawn Miller at email@example.com or 304-348-5117.