OGDEN -- The wide eyes and breathless smiles of Heritage Elementary School students brought to mind the expression "like a kid in a candy store." In reality, the giddy students were kids in a library.
The staff of Weber State University's Metaphor, an annual undergraduate journal of student art, music and literature, donated a thousand books to the students, with one for each child to take home and about 270 left over for use at school.
The donation was intended to spark an interest in reading.
"We really wanted to give back to the community," said Andie McFarland, 24, Metaphor editor-in-chief.
"We wanted to do a service project because service is a big part of leadership. Literature means a lot to us, and we wanted to support the next generation."
Metaphor's staff of about 25 WSU students spent the day Wednesday reading Dr. Seuss books to the children in a celebration of the late Theodore Seuss Geisel's birthday.
McFarland read "Green Eggs and Ham" to teacher Heather Merte's second-graders, many of them clad in colorful pajamas, a Dr. Seuss Day tradition.
The 7- and 8-year-olds sat rapt, wriggling only a little in their two-piece or footie PJs and reciting the book's words along with McFarland, sometimes anticipating the next line before she turned the page.
As lead character Sam continued to list the multiple places he did not like green eggs and ham, a boy leaned toward a classmate in SpongeBob SquarePants jammies and whispered, "Sam's gonna change his mind."
McFarland told her listeners she used to be disgusted by avocados because they were "green and mushy," but said she learned to love them.
The boy in the SpongeBob PJs confessed he used to hate kiwis before retrying them and discovering they were "awesome."
Then Merte revealed the big surprise that each student would get a book to take home and keep forever.
"I think they're really excited," she said as her students stormed the door. "This will be something of their very own. Some of them don't have a lot of books at home."
Younger students lined up outside the library to choose a picture book from stacks on two tables. Topics ranged from fairy tales to science, from movie-themed books to books on hero dogs.
Some kids hugged their selected books close. Others sat cross-legged on the floor, happily reading as others continued to weigh their options.
Older kids waited outside the school cafeteria for a chance to choose a chapter book.
Metaphor faculty adviser Jan Hamer, a WSU English professor, said she was happy to see the young students' excitement about owning a donated book.
"Everybody involved in Metaphor grew up loving to read," Hamer said. "It's gratifying to see all the happy faces here today, and to see how much the kids love their books.
"It's great to see the love of literature passed on to the next generation."