Central Elementary gave away 3,000 books to students at the Mobile Library program kickoff June 13.

The program brought literature to over 400 students in their communities and let them choose which titles piqued their interest. No summer reading lists here.

“We wanted to create some opportunities for our kiddos to read during the summer,” said Lindsay Henderson, assistant principal and dean of instruction. “We tried to design very intentional ways to support reading this summer so we can continue the momentum that we’ve created in our classrooms.”

Books were gathered via donations from Central Elementary teachers, bookstores like Half Price Books and internet users that purchased books on the school’s Amazon wish list, Henderson said.  

(Photo courtesy of Lindsay Henderson)

Henderson said in doing research, Central Elementary staff found that students from low-income communities lose two to three months in their reading skills over the summer because they don’t have access to books. Whereas students in a middle class or affluent community gain a month of reading skills during the summer because they have more access to home libraries or bookstores in their neighborhoods than low-income families.

A large portion of Central Elementary’s student population is bused to school daily, meaning they need books brought to them or they won’t have access to them due to finances or lack of transportation.

Seeing the need for one, Central Elementary created a Mobile Library this summer. Teachers and volunteers loaded up cars with books and popsicles, then drove to two different neighborhoods to distribute them, and gave away the rest at the library’s final stop in the Central Elementary playground.

Patty Salazar, a fourth-grade language arts teacher at Central Elementary, volunteered at the kickoff event as a translator and helped students sign in to receive their books. She said her students came to the event eager to get their hands on fresh literature.

“They are readers,” she said of her students. “They just don’t have the resources to go buy the books or be taken to a library. There are so many things that stop them, but they love reading.”

Books filled cardboard boxes stacked on top of one another to act as makeshift shelves, but students didn’t mind. They shuffled through the titles free to choose only books that caught their eye.  

(Photo courtesy of Lindsay Henderson)

“We know the more kids read, the more they grow, especially when they are choosing books that they want to read,” Henderson said.

Parents and students who attended the event appreciated the book selection and the freedom to choose, including mother Mireya Collazo, who brought her two daughters to the Northwood community library stop.

“At home, parents have children read books they think the kids may want to read, but they may not be what truly interests the child,” she said through a translator.

Collazo said her younger daughter, a second grader, chose books about animals while her eldest daughter, a fourth grader, chose books based on realistic fiction. She added that she did not need to force her daughters to attend a school event on summer vacation, they were excited about the books.

In addition to supplying literary resources for students, the program was a community initiative for Central Elementary.

“The staff that’s coming out to volunteer, they’re really excited to not only see the faces of our students but to also be in their communities and see their neighborhoods,” Henderson said.

(Photo courtesy of Lindsay Henderson)

Another mother, Lorena Perez, thought the program was a great idea and said she appreciated the community outreach in addition to the books for her three children.

Perez said through a translator that she enjoyed the event because there were recognizable faces. She knew teachers there and knew they knew her.

All students received a reading journal in addition to the five to 10 books they selected to take home. Henderson hopes the journals will engage students beyond their books.

As a reward for their recreational reading, students that bring back a filled-in journal documenting responses to their books will have a free ticket to a reading celebration at the end of the summer.

“Fourth and fifth graders will get to go to a swim party. We’ve rented out the Old Town Aquatic Park,” Henderson said. “Our kinder through third graders will get to come to the school to have a big party with bounce houses, food, music and games.”

Henderson also said the school plans to test students’ reading proficiency in the fall to gauge how the Mobile Library program helped improve or sustain literacy skills.

Salazar said she was proud to volunteer at the event and hopes to attend the Mobile Library events moving forward because she realizes how beneficial it is for the students.

“I had a lot of fun and it was worthwhile,” she said. “The most important thing is that they will be reading. They have books in their hands that they like. We don’t really know how much we are impacting their life just by providing a book.”  

Henderson said anyone can donate books for the program via their Amazon wish list. They are especially in need of Spanish books.

It’s important to get books in both of the languages they speak,” she said of the students. “Since 95 percent of our population is Hispanic, we want to make sure their homes are text-rich with English and Spanish materials.”

Spaced throughout the summer, the Mobile Library will make three more stops in the Northwood and North Cowan communities as well as the Central Elementary school playground.

Central Elementary Mobile Library calendar:

  • June 27
    • 11 a.m. North Cowan playground
    • Noon Northwood playground
    • 1 p.m. Central Elementary playground
  • July 25
    • 11 a.m. North Cowan playground
    • Noon Northwood playground
    • 1 p.m. Central Elementary playground
  • Aug. 7
    • 11 a.m. North Cowan playground
    • Noon Northwood playground
    • 1 p.m. Central Elementary playground