The Bookmobile is Here (OR NOT)!
When I lived in rural Missouri about twice per year our teachers would remind us to bring money for the Bookmobile. The Bookmobile–for those who are unfamiliar–provided kids in remote areas a place to purchase books. As the name implies, it was a travelling library. Nowadays, you may have come across PopUp Libraries at your local farmer’s market.
The Bookmobile was a beast and sat for hours pumping out exhaust fumes while the various grades had their turn. I vividly recall the sound of the hydraulic bus door opening (swoosh), and then it was three steps into subzero air-conditioning and the utter joy of being surrounded by books. Ahh…Library Eau de Perfume. If someone bottled up the aroma of books, I’d buy it.
This was a time when my family was not financially sound, well, let’s just be honest, we were pretty poor back then. I had mixed feelings about the Bookmobile. First, I would have to ask my mom for money I knew she didn’t have. Two, I really, really, really wanted the next adventure story. Finally, all my friends would leave with a stack of books, making me ashamed that my stack of one book (or sometimes none) would appear meager.
Don’t start crying for me yet. I have more than made up for my desire for books and am now running out of space. Do I have deep-seated book trauma and count myself as a book-hoarder? Probably. Also, keep in mind the school had a small library and I had access to larger libraries. It wasn’t that rough.
During the summer while my mom was attending nursing school and my father was working out of state, mom dropped us off at our local library and picked us up after her school let out in the afternoon. I’m not suggesting you use your local library as free daycare (sorry mom for calling you out), but the point is you have to take kids to the source. In this time of quarantine, my library is closed and while the library has tons of online options for kids and adults alike, you cannot check out actual hard copy books. This has got me thinking…
What if you don’t have access to an e-reader or even an online connection? We did a Zoom family Easter brunch this past Sunday and my cousin who is a teacher in a low-income school district in California mentioned that she isn’t currently teaching her kids because many do not have access to computers and/or the internet. It’s hard to imagine that this exists in America today, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, these kids stopped learning. She misses them terribly! My son, by contrast, was given a portable hotspot device to access free WIFI and has daily online classes. When the pandemic hit, Atlanta Public Schools responded quickly and he didn’t miss one day of class. I started wondering about kids in situations like this and began researching alternatives. This doesn’t solve the teaching issue, but perhaps, offers something else to those who don’t have what we consider to be the basics. By the way, I believe reading is an essential–a right we all should have!
You can easily find options to access free online books from non-profit resources to the library, but there are few options for kids who do not have online access. I hope that anyone reading this post will comment with more alternatives, but for now, here are a few I found (literally a few):
First Book: Partners with non-profit organizations, corporations, and individuals to deliver high-quality books to low-income families.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library: Mails free books to children from birth to age five residing in participating communities in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and the Republic of Ireland. Another reason to love Dolly.
Reading is Fundamental: Provides new books to children across the U.S. Children are allowed to choose age-appropriate books to build their own library.
PJ Library: Mails free books monthly to Jewish families around the world ages 0-12.
Please share this post with librarians, educators, friends, and family who may know of other alternatives for the delivery of hard copy books. Also, please consider donating to these organizations either financially and/or with book donations to help support these causes.
Happy Writing AND Reading!