When a set of metal stairs fold out from the back the little yellow school bus labeled Book Cafe, you know the mobile library is up and running.
“You are welcome to come up and take books! Make sure you take what you will read. If we can help you find something, let me know!” Jenny Granger shouts as kids approach the bus.
Jenny is a teacher and librarian at Snohomish’s Emerson Elementary. This morning the bus was parked outside of Circle H Mobile Home Park, in northeast Snohomish, and there was already a line of kids when we rolled up. Jenny started Book Cafe three years ago, when she noticed that kids were coming back to school in September with rusty reading skills.
“After looking at test scores and seeing how, in September, scores had dropped from when they left in June, we tried to do something to address the summer drop. So we had the library open in the summer for kids to come in. We got some kids, but not very many, and part of it is transportation.”
So she brings the books to the kids, in a gutted school bus that’s been fitted with wooden boxes so kids can flip through books like audiophiles flip through albums at a record store. Kids can either borrow a book or keep it forever and Jenny and her minion of volunteers fire up Book Cafe every Tuesday, all summer long.
“We have four stops. From here we go to downtown Snohomish, by the new aquatic center. Then we head out towards Clearview/Cathcart area, there is a mobile home park way out past Bob’s Corn, it’s really isolated. Then we head to the Boys and Girls Club.”
Book Cafe follows the same route as Kids Cafe, a federally funded mobile lunch program that delivers a healthy lunch to kids every day during summer break.
“Trying to get kids eating food throughout the year because for some kids, when summer comes, they don’t have access to breakfast and lunch.”
At the aquatic center stop I met 10 year old Emery. Emery and her friend picked up brand new copies of the super popular young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars.
“We really wanted it but Miss Granger said she would go to a store and buy them for us,” Emery says. “So she’s pretty awesome.”
Most of the books come from grant funding and community donations…and they’re definitely making an impact.
“Some books are really sad and they really make you cry,” Emery says. “But, like, some books are happy books and they make you cry because you’re really happy.”
Parents, like Alicia Boyzo, appreciate the books as well.
“They get excited to get more books. They’re like, ‘Oh my God, the bus is here!’ It was really nice that they did this. She loves to read.”
“Last week we had a very grateful parent,” says Jenny. “A two year old who had never had her own book. The little one found a board book and it was her very first book. Poverty is something that, unless it hits you directly with the kids you deal with, you just don’t know until you get out and look at something like this.”
Jenny says kids need to look at reading as a year round fun activity, not just something you do at school. She says 17% of parents don’t believe in summer reading, they think their kids brains need a break, so Jenny’s trying her best to reverse that kind of thinking.
If you’d like to donate a book to the program, you can drop it off/mail them to:
Snohomish School District
1601 Avenue D Snohomish. WA 98290
Or you can donate money for books/gas to www.snoed.org