Empty shelf: 80 books, board games missing from classroom turned shelter after Irma

DUNEDIN, Florida — A Florida teacher found an empty bookshelf when she returned to her classroom, which had served as a shelter for Hurricane Irma evacuees.

Martha Hereford-Cothron tells the Tampa Bay Times her heart sank when she saw 80 books and a few board games were gone from her classroom at Highland Middle School. Some books were signed by her favorite authors.

She teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who test in the lower 25 percent of the school’s readers and says it’s enough of a challenge to get them interested in books.

She tried to spin the theft in a positive way to students. And she had a message to the book thief. “I hope they’re reading them,” she said, or passing them along to someone who will.

Dunedin is near Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.