When the school bells ring this week, lots of area kiddos will be in for a nice surprise. Their teacher might have an apple on his or her desk, but students will have a book to sink their teeth into — not an academic volume, but a picture book or chapter book to read for pleasure.

It’s a mission embraced by teachers that’s spreading like the wave at a baseball game, thanks to Facebook.

Though social media gets its share of criticism, “Facebook does have some positive aspects,” said Megan Meyer, a third-grade teacher at Central Elementary School in Union. This fall marks Meyer’s 11th year in the classroom, and when a friend shared a post about presenting kids with a book on the first day of school, she was all in.

Meyer sent private Facebook messages to her friends and relatives asking them to buy a book for a student in her classroom and to include messages of “positivity and encouragement,” wishing the student the best in their upcoming year. In one day she had sponsors for each of her 23 students.

“The best part about this is it shows how willing people are to help you,” Meyer said. In typical teacher style, Meyer is thinking up ways to extend learning, like having her students write thank-you notes to their book sponsors and possibly having them meet these benefactors if they can come to school and read to the class.

At Washington West Elementary School, book mania has spread in Ashley Garrett’s room too. This will be Garrett’s fifth year of teaching, and each of her sixth- grade students, numbering 28, will have a book on their desk on Day One.

Garrett set her plan in motion the last Friday in July. She invited donors to purchase a book themselves or send her $10 and she’d do the honors. Garrett mailed the donors stickers to sign with their names. They also could write supportive messages, tell children they would pray for them and wish them good luck.

All three sixth-grade classes at Washington West are taking part in this widespread mission, Garrett said, adding that she might reinstitute it over the holidays because it’s been so warmly received by folks who want to take part in the giveaway.

Up the road at Beaufort Elementary School, Trini Haddox, a fourth-grade teacher in her second year at the school, is over the moon about the book gifting. Haddox may have broken the turnaround record — within 45 minutes all 19 names in her classroom had been snapped up. The request even “brought some of my friends together,” Wood said, like some of her sorority sisters from college who said they wanted a way to help teachers but didn’t know how.

“This gave them the opportunity,” Haddox added.

To assist donors with book choices, she provided a link to websites, Scholastic books for readers in third to fifth grade, and Missouri Mark Twain Book Award nominees. Rather than turning away people who wished to donate after all the students had been provided for, Haddox accepted additional books. She will wrap these in butcher paper and the kids will uncover them during the year on Fridays for Flashlight Reading time. Once the books have been shared, they will find a home in Haddox’s classroom library — research proving how vital it is for teachers to offer their students this resource, one that makes books continually available.

Dawn Kitchell, owner of Neighborhood Reads, said many customers have been in the bookstore buying these first day gift books for students. She’s so inspired, she hopes to help teachers and customers connect this holiday through the bookstore to continue the goodwill giving.

Until then, it’s a given that students will be sharing their gift books with one another and feeling mighty special to have a handwritten message that proves how much others care about their success in school and life.