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A lifelong love of reading led Kallena Pluemer to spend her final weeks at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh organizing a book drive.

The Platteville native and senior accounting major grew up in a home full of books and came from six generations of educators. She remembers the book store being her favorite place to shop as a child, and she’s both worked and volunteered at her local library. So when it came time to launch a business project that “moves the needle” for a 400-level class assignment, she knew the direction she wanted to take it.

“I loved to see what a difference it made when children got to read,” said Pluemer, who is one of about 700 UW Oshkosh students earning degrees at the end of the fall semester. “I noticed it was really hard for a lot of them to part with the books when it came time to return them. As wonderful as the library is, I think it makes a huge difference if children have their own book to read.

“My parents read to me a lot as a child and bought me a lot of books, and I wanted other children to have this opportunity as well.”

The project, for the business capstone course Business Growth and Development, started with Pluemer asking friends and family to donate any books they would be willing to part with. She set up an Amazon wish list, so if somebody wanted to help out but didn’t have any books to donate, they could still get involved.

She reached out to the library in Platteville and set up a fundraiser, the results of which she used to buy second-hand books from a thrift store. The library also connected her with Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit that helps integrate reading into pediatric practices, advise families about the importance of reading with their children, and share books that serve as a catalyst for healthy childhood development.

“I was thrilled to find such a great organization that has helped me organize the actual donation,” Pluemer said.

Last week, she helped deliver about 150 books to donate to ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh, which is one of three clinics in Oshkosh with the Reach Out and Read program. ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh has nearly 700 well-child visits annually and has prescribed more than 2,500 books over the past four years.

Making the drop off was one of the many things on Pluemer’s to-do list for the end of her time at UW Oshkosh. After midyear commencement she’ll take the Certified Public Accountant exam and she has an internship lined up with Grant Thornton’s Appleton office for the busy tax season. After that, she’ll start as a full-time auditor at that same office in the fall.

She’s set up for success and her love of reading has served her well. She hopes her work this semester will pay it forward and have an impact on a few young readers with bright futures.

“At the beginning of the project, I was really overwhelmed, but I am so grateful to all of the people I was able to work with,” she said. “Their passion and willingness to donate made me feel so proud of my family, friends and community.

“This donation was a lot of work, but if even one kid develops a love of reading because of this, it will all be worth it.”

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