It was such a simple gesture, but it made a big difference.
Bess the Book Bus is a mobile library that travels around the country giving free books to young children. The service answers a critical need, because it turns out that the single greatest determinant in a child learning to read is having access to reading materials.
At LSF Pinellas Head Start, the book bus visit is one of the days they look forward to most.
When the bus arrives, the teachers take the students one by one to look at the racks of books set-up outside. Many of the children will recognize something familiar on the cover, like a cartoon, and immediately reach out to claim it as theirs.
“The kids get so excited,” says Farrah Probst, Center Director. “That book is something they can call their own. And the parents appreciate it, too.”
For the kids who are too young to read, the teachers still make it a priority to allow them to select a book. The idea is that they get used to reading and exercising choice and autonomy in the process.
“If there’s a kid who’s absent, we still make sure to choose a book for them, so they don’t miss out.”
According to a recent Pew study, the number of children who say they read for pleasure has decreased dramatically over the past decade. In an effort to combat this trend, and to create a positive attitude toward reading, the teachers at LSF’s Head Start are making it a priority to get children comfortable with and excited about books.
LSF Head Start has provided high quality education to young children for the past 30 years and coordinating book bus visits is only one of several literacy initiatives they pursue to close the achievement gap.
“It’s important to read to your kids,” says Probst. “But for families who are battling poverty, buying books may not be a priority. So, we try to provide as much as possible here at the school. I see that as our job as much as anything else.”