BROOKSVILLE — Marla Banta likes to make books and give them away. Of course, she would like to sell some. But when it comes to schools, the money is not important to her.
Banta doesn't write the stories; she makes the books. Using a book-producing computer program — offered at bestpersonalizedbooks.com — she personalizes stories for each child. She recently gave 26 of the books to children at the Learning Tree, a nationally accredited child care center and volunteer prekindergarten, owned and directed by Gloria and Shane Harris.
"They love these books," Gloria Harris said. "They see their names in them. They see their teacher's name and their school."
Banta, 60, can't do this for free, but she doesn't charge the schools. She gets sponsors, with the Harrises' help. Sponsors are listed in the backs of the books.
"The advertisers, they're the people that make it possible," said Shane Harris.
If the school receives more donations than necessary to cover the cost, Banta gives the excess to the school. When helping young readers, she keeps nothing.
"I'll make the books at no charge to them, their guardians or their parents," she said. It is a lot of work, but she said she does it "because I believe if children can read, they can do anything."
Banta also likes the idea of the children having something personalized.
"My name is Marla," she said. "Growing up, all my friends had things with their names on them, and I didn't."
There are more than 40 stories on the program she uses. She reviews them, types in the children's names and prints out the pages. She goes through a lot of toner. The most recent book, School is Fun, included each child's name, town, school and teacher.
"The child is the character throughout the whole school," Banta said. The books "promote the joy of reading. They're unique keepsakes."
Upon receiving the book and hearing it read, Breanna Stephens, 4, said, "I love this part," indicating where the children appear to be writing or coloring.
"I like the raccoon part," said 5-year-old Corbin Chesser, referring to a rascally raccoon.
Noah Williams, 4, liked the page where the bears were playing, coloring, playing music "and painting," he said.
"This is the third or fourth time we did this," Gloria Harris said. "This is going to stay with them and promote reading."