Friday, 10 February 2017

Not a library, but a bus to spread reading and literacy

In Tampa, on Tampa Bay, in the American state of Florida lives a little yellow bus, called Bess. This bus is full of books and is a not for profit enterprise, that travels accross the USA distributing new books to children in areas of deprivation.  Staffed by volunteers it visits schools who read the stories to the children in classrooms before giving out the books. The intention of the project is to build up libraries in children's homes and give children the opportunity to own a book, which they may not have otherwise.

The idea was started by one woman, Jennifer Frances (Jenn) 14 years ago. It intially operated only in Tampa, but decided to go nationwide after its first 5 years. Jenn says that she was inspired by her grandmother (Nana Bess) who gave her the love of books and reading. Jenn wants to do that with each child. The vehicle manages to operate through donations and sponsorship, from a variety of sources, including Mecedes Benz to a book publisher.

I think that we are very fortunate that here in the UK we have the Book Trust's Bookstart scheme, which also gives books to children. This is a larger enterprise than Bess the Bookbus. Books are distributed to each child in the UK, not always in a little yellow bus, but Sheffield used to have a little blue bus, like a zoo, to go around schools and centres giving out stories and Bookstart packs. I am not sure that it still has. Usually the books are given away at libraries or health clinics, by library staff or health visitors, and children recieve them at the ages of 0-12 months and again at 3-4 years.

Here is the Sheffield bus, with the Bookstart Bear.
Bookstart is a UK charity, has a certain amount of government funding and accepts donations. It works closely with publishers to produce books suitable for children with additional needs and dual language books. Bess the Bookbus, and Bookstart have the same aims - give books, get children reading. 

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