LAFAYETTE — In the coming days, preschool students across seven parishes in Acadiana will receive a free book thanks to the donation of 7,330 books from Barnes & Noble customers.

The books have helped young students start their own home libraries and create an opportunity for parents to connect with their children through reading, school officials said during a news conference Thursday at the Picard Center. The store has worked with the Picard Center for the past four years to distribute more than 20,000 donated books to children in the seven-parish area, said Tamika Carmouche, Picard Center project director for birth to five professional development.

This year’s7,330 books were donated during the store’s annual holiday book drive, said store manager Drew Zeigler.

“That’s 7,330 discoveries, journeys and voyages kids are going on and hopefully, starting a lifetime love of reading,” Zeigler said.

Reading opens a world of opportunities to children, and research shows that early exposure to books and reading improves a child’s success in school, Carmouche said.

The news conference featured performances from 20 preschoolers from Truman Montessori School in Lafayette. As the students filed out of the Picard Center to return to school, each was given a donated book.

The books will be distributed to public preschool programs in Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes, as well as classes offered by SMILE Community Action Agency, United Way of Acadiana and Gethsemane Christian Academy.