By Gary Gray
Kids throughout the area have an opportunity this summer to maintain that valuable link with literature largely associated with classrooms via Johnson City Schools’ Bookworm Mobile.
The large white bus is on the road Mondays through Thursdays in June and July, stopping at Johnson City neighborhoods, mobile home parks, housing complexes, city parks and other locations to provide books to local school-aged children. Johnson City officials hope that delivering free books will detour a term known as the summer slide, which happens when children don’t read over the summer.
At a stop at Rotary Park last week, 70 children selected books during the Bookworm Mobile’s 40-minute appearance. Children are given access to free picture-books, activity books, books for beginners, fiction, non-fiction, as well as selections by age and category.
They also can grab a lunch bag containing a sandwich, carrots, juice and other snacks, and volunteers restock supplies throughout the day.
“I think the best part for me is seeing that kids that may not have access to the books during the summer get that chance,” said Khia Hudgins, a volunteer who cheerfully guides kids and parents through the reading selections. “I’ll have kids come in here and stay 15 minutes just looking through the books.
“I feel that knowledge is power, and I was reading at a very early age. We want to build a relationship with both the child and the parent where they will read together. What we hear mostly is ‘thank you’ from parents who say this is a really great idea. They also tell us they’ve never seen anything like this.”
Brothers Jude and Jonas Lawson walked out with some reading material and parents John and Heather expressed their gratitude.
“I think it shows our children that our community supports literature,” Heather Lawson said. “There are little children sitting here sopping wet just chewing on a carrot and gazing at their books. It also looks like a great way to make friends.”
The bookmobile concept has been around for some time, and Hudgins said she wants to see the Johnson City Schools program grow.
She said the program is meant to boost reading over the summer, “because normally it just goes flat.”
“This is our second summer,” she said. “Every year we add more locations. We have someone go out and look at the populations that are mainly school zones. It is mostly areas with persons at the lower end of the socio-economic scale, but we go all over Johnson City.”
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