New Bookmobile Hones Youth Literacy and Love of Reading in ELCO School District
The new vehicle includes more than 2,000 books intended primarily for K-2 reading levels and makes trips through the school zone
Hal Conte, Lebanon Daily News
Some children may have lost considerable learning during the pandemic, but a new bookmobile is in town in the East Lebanon County School District (ELCO) area to help fill in the cracks and build literacy skills. more basic reading intended primarily for students in Kindergarten to Grade 2.
The bookmobile, a labor of love by district school teachers and community members, is expected to eventually expand its collection to include more books reaching grade 5 reading level.
Officially titled ELCO “Wild About Books” Mobile, the “lending library on wheels” has already made several trips through the neighborhood in July, the month of its grand opening. The creation of the bookmobile was funded by donations from the community, according to Steven Lin, principal of Fort Zeller Elementary School.
There are over 2,000 books on hand, but ultimately Lin would like to see that number several times.
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Books are loaned out on a two-week basis. Although the school district is the primary community organization behind the bookmobile, children using the service are not required to be enrolled in either of the two elementary schools to view the books. Items can be returned at any subsequent stop or at Fort Zeller.
The interior of the shiny blue truck is lined with posters featuring children’s classics, including Ms. Frizzle reading beside the magical school bus (also pictured reading a book), Things 1 and 2 from “Cat in the Hat” , slogans such as “Reading Rochers!” and more.
The graphics used on the truck and in the promotional materials were designed by high school student Lucy Bickel. T-shirts featuring the logo are now sold to support the bookmobile. These must be ordered before August 13. The order form can be completed via a link on a dedicated Facebook page.
The bookmobile made an appearance at the Richland United Church of Christ at 22 Church Street on the last Tuesday in July.
Reading specialists were on hand to help the children choose books corresponding to their grade level. Sarah Faust, a reading specialist at Fort Zeller, said that while age distinctions are important, children choose books primarily based on their interests.
Considering the disruption of in-person learning and the usual effects of the “summer slide,” “these kids need to improve, they need to improve in reading,” she explained. Anything that motivates them to spend more time interacting with the printed word is beneficial.
The evening’s activities were themed around the Olympics, with various challenges and also crafts, such as designing personalized book bags. Several students could be seen attempting, with a surprising degree of success, to balance one or more books on their heads walking along a linear challenge.
So far, the bookmobile has received hymns from residents.
Parent of a student at Fort Zeller Elementary School, Sarah Horst learned of the event on Facebook. Her child consulted three books: “In the Woods”, “Dolphins” and “Legs”.
“It’s well organized, with excellent recommendations for its reading level,” she enthuses. “I think it’s a great idea.”
Ann Zimmerman, a Myerstown resident whose third-grader attended Fort Zeller last year, was aware of the bookmobile at the last PTO meeting. She regularly takes her son to public libraries, although she said they “already have so many books at home, we should probably open a library at home.”
“I love him. I know he’s excited to come,” she added. “I wish they had something like this when I was a kid, and I think it motivates kids, especially in the summer, to keep reading, which is very important.”
Lin, who was on site on 27 as a volunteer, has been the district director since 2018 and originally inspired the idea, but it was the educators who took him in hand to make his dream come true. “I kind of joked about an idea like this almost two years ago,” he said. “Out of the blue, all the years … a handful of teachers came to me” and resuscitated him.
The principal of the school, Julia Vicente, had also brought up the idea of a bookmobile alone several years ago. “Really, this is a teacher-led project,” Lin said.
Lin said he remembered having a bookmobile when he was growing up and enjoyed it. He said childhood memories of the bookmobiles could be the source of successful fundraising and efforts to purchase and build the vehicle.
Originally, the idea was to buy an old bus. A trailer was ultimately chosen to save money in insurance and maintenance costs. The ELCO Education Foundation has granted $ 3,000 to purchase props such as library carts and buy more books, as Lin hopes to avoid “raiding” the existing school library.
This isn’t the first book-related project the school has been targeting in recent years. “Corridor library” carts with books leveled by level have appeared in schools. “With these hallway bookcases, they kind of just sit there in the summer and aren’t used,” Lin said. In summer, placing them on board the bookmobile is currently the solution, although this is a holdover and the bookmobile should have its own selection of books in the years to come.
Local public librarians also participate in bookmobile events, attended by leaders of the Richland Community Library on July 27.
Myerstown public librarians are also collaborating on the bookmobile project. Lin said they didn’t see the bookmobile as a competition. Compared to what Lin jokingly described as the “box on wheels,” public libraries also have more activities and computers.
The bookmobile’s next appearance will be on August 10 at White Swan Park between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., followed by a visit to Jackson Meadows Park on August 12 at the same time. The complete schedule of upcoming visits is available on the bookmobile’s Facebook page.
Although classes resume later this month, the bookmobile will not disappear during the school year: teachers and staff intend to continue volunteering on a more limited basis through the fall.
“Parents like to see their teachers in the whole community,” Lin said. “We are very proud as an ELCO community. We often come together around the academic prowess of our high school students [and] their sporting exploits. “
“We thought it might be nice to have something for our young children and their families… to celebrate,” Lin concluded. “We have a strong ethic as a community at ELCO. It’s for everyone.”
Hal Conte is a quality of life and mid-Pennsylvania reporter for the Lebanon Daily News. You can find him on Twitter at @conte_hal.