Never underestimate a teacher who believes in the power of reading.
Misty Eidson is an educator in Oklahoma at Mustang Public Schools, and she spearheaded efforts in her district to get a summer book bus on the streets of her community. This was no easy feat, considering they had zero budget and no bus at the start. But that didn’t stop them.
“It really seemed like there was no way we could do this at first,” Eidson says. “We knew we had to show people our vision.”
Summer + reading = genius
This vision started last summer when Eidson was reading a professional development book about just how powerful getting kids to fall in love with reading is.
“The research shows that if students have access to 12–15 books over the summer, the loss of learning over the two-month break can be minimized or even overcome,” Eidson says.
Since Eidson’s district doesn’t have a traditional summer school program, this statistic really stuck with her. As a teacher, she’s definitely seen the firsthand impact of the summer slide—when students lose two months of instruction—and she loved the idea of books offering a solution.
She and other organizers went directly to their superintendent because they knew what they needed first: a bus.
Anyone want to paint a bus?
Fortunately the school district had a bus that would soon be retiring from regular routes, which was great. But they soon found out that they had a long way to go before it could become their official Mustang Bronco Book Bus.
It needed a lot of work on both the inside and outside to operate as a book bus, and the district didn’t have money in the budget for it. So Eidson and others got creative. They asked the AP art kids from the high school to paint it. Their maintenance crew offered to get the inside ready and build shelves—even the wood for that was donated. And then they put out a call for books to fill it.
“Once people heard about it, books just started pouring in,” Eidson says. “Our community really came together for this project.”
Books and snow cones just belong together.
The book bus goes out into the community twice a week, covering a large district of nearly 70 miles. In particular, the bus goes to areas that aren’t near a public library.
“A lot of our kids aren’t within five miles of a public library,” Eidson says. “Having access to books is a need in our community. It’s a need in a lot of communities.”
When students visit the book bus, they can check out two books at a time. They can also stick around for special story times with local celebrity readers, games, and other activities. Students can earn tickets for prizes by making repeat visits or returning books. There’s even a snow cone truck (genius idea) that follows the book bus around, and 25 percent of its sales go toward paying for the bus’ fuel.
“I had no idea how it was going to go, but it’s been amazing to watch,” Eidson says. “The first stop, we had kids walking and biking up to us right away, and they all took books. My favorite moment was a little girl who got on the bus and immediately started squealing. She had found a Harry Potter book that she had been wanting for months, and she was so excited to finally have it.”
The Mustang Bronco Book Bus is not the newest, biggest, or fanciest thing around, but Eidson knows it has plenty of heart. And it’s doing exactly what Eidson and her coworkers set out to do—get kids reading.
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Plus, how to bring little free libraries to your school.