Book Bus

 Nine-year-old Kahlen Cornell and program coordinator Jennifer Swayze stand in front of the colorful book mobile, which participants in the Spencer Pretty Awesome Kids (PAK) camp painted a year or two ago. 

This summer, for the sixth year in a row, Spencer and Van Etten residents might catch sight of a whimsically decorated white trailer covered with bold-colored kids’ handprints. Despite its whimsical paint scheme, the trailer has a very important mission – bringing reading to Spencer-Van Etten students during the summer months.

Currently the trailer, better known as the book mobile, is coordinated by Van Etten Elementary Public Information Coordinator Jennifer Swayze. The bookmobile makes a stop at one location each Tuesday throughout the summer months in order to help provide summer reading opportunities for children. So far, the book mobile has been at Nichols Park, the Van Etten Village Square, Wyncoop Creek trailer park, and Hillview trailer park.

Although the books are primarily kids’ books and young adult material, there are also some books for adult readers in the mix. Swayze said, “Our focus is more elementary level, but we do have middle school books and then adult books.” While some of the elementary books are new, all of the adult books are used book donations.

“I’d say we have about 1,000 books in the bookmobile,” Swayze said. She added, “We just want to promote literacy over the summer.” Just based on the size of its selection, it seems that the book mobile is likely succeeding in that goal.

The bookmobile isn’t offering a book sale; its offerings are all completely free. Swayze said, “It’s totally free. They can come and get five to eight books and then take them home and read them. They can keep them or they can bring them back to another book mobile site.” That means that, unlike a library, there are no late fees.

The book mobile has two main funding sources: the Spencer-Van Etten Read-A-Thon and an online charity called Donors Choose. The money enables the book mobile to purchase new books, although the program also relies on gently used book donations. Swayze said, “There’s a lot of books in there that are off of kids’ shelves that they want to donate.”

While Swayze coordinates the project, a number of teachers and some administrators attend each weekly event to help out. One of the teachers at last week’s book mobile stop in the Wyncoop trailer park was Julie Friedman. Friedman, who teaches second grade, said, “We’re teachers, so we think reading is important. We like books and we like kids.”

Kahlen Cornell, 9, was at the Wyncoop trailer park stop. Since her mother is a teacher, Cornell comes to a lot of the book mobile locations. She said that, this time, she’d selected The Diary of Anne Frank and Mostly Monty by Johanna Hurwitz. Regarding her former selection, she said, “I picked it because my dad and I are reading the same book.” For the latter, she said, “I picked this one because it was about reading.”

Cornell’s mother, kindergarten teacher Deidre Cornell said, “The nice thing about our bookmobile is we have fiction, non-fiction, and picture books.”

For interested young readers, there are four remaining dates scheduled for book mobile locations this summer. On August 5, the book mobile will be in Halsey Valley near the church at 10 a.m.; on August 12, it will be at the East Spencer Road trailer park at 6:30 p.m.; on August 15 it will be at the Spencer-Van Etten High School at 7:30 p.m., after football practice; and on August 23 it will be at the Spencer picnic parade.

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