It’s not quite an ice cream truck, but it sure is serving up smiles to hundreds of children across the county this summer.
The Hall County Schools “Reading Rocket” jets to four different locations every Tuesday, inviting children of all ages — and, yes, even adults — on board to check out age-appropriate books to enjoy over the summer.
Bus driver Mary Bowman welcomes each child with a smiling face, while school media specialists assist in picking out books and checking out.
“I love it,” Bowman said. “I love reading, and helping out the kids.”
The bookmobile was the brainchild of Hall County school media specialist Sara Blankenship.
“It was kind of a vision that I had,” she said. “I felt like our kids needed it.”
A school bus has been completely remodeled to emulate the library experience. The seats have been removed to make way for bookshelves, and the outside is decorated so that it stands out when driving through the community. Stylish rugs and comfortable seating options line the aisle. The majority of the books target younger, elementary-level readers, but there are more advanced options for middle and high school students.
There is even an adult section with a few books for parents who might want to spend some summer time reading. While most didn’t take advantage of it Tuesday, Amada DelaCruz returned three novels as her children browsed. She is using the books to help her learn English.
She said that she only was able to read “a little” of each book, but that she enjoyed them all. She did check out a Judy Blume book to read over the upcoming week.
More than 160 schoolchildren stepped onto the Reading Rocket on Tuesday, many also returning books from the previous week. A library patron may check out a limited number of books per week, and then return the items the next week.
The Reading Rocket has four stops, the main one being the Lyman Hall area, where it makes its stop at the elementary school and the Joseph F. Walters Boys & Girls Clubs on Memorial Park Drive. It then visits two subdivisions in the Tadmore and Riverbend areas.
For parent Raquel Garcia, whose daughters Jarume and Brianna raced out of their home to pick out their books, it’s a needed service.
“Because I put my girls (to bed) to read at night, and so I don’t have to go to the library and spend more time,” she explained, pointing out the convenience of a library practically right at her door.
That’s the reason staff chose the locations it did for this inaugural year of the bookmobile, Blankenship said.
“We chose based on student need,” she explained. “The kids that were furthest from the library, or less likely to have additional resources over the summer.”
She hopes to add more stops in the future, but wanted to have a limited number this first year.
Though the specific subdivisions visited aren’t publicized, Blankenship said that every student received the information before the school year ended. Bowman also makes sure to drive slowly, and stops for a few minutes at different locations, to make sure people can see the bus.
Many children were already waiting at the doors, racing outside when they saw it pulling up.
“I love seeing them run up like that,” Bowman said. “It’s like, oh! They really value it.”
The Reading Rocket will operate Tuesday and July 9 and 16. The route begins in the Lyman Hall area, stopping at the elementary school around 10 a.m., and then making its way to the Boys & Girls Clubs at 10:15, where it stays for around 30 minutes. The Boys & Girls Clubs teachers bring their classes outside to check out books, and parents are invited to bring their children.
The bus makes it way to the Tadmore/East Hall area from 11:15 a.m. to noon, and then the Riverbend/North Hall area from 12:30-1:15 p.m.
For more information, or to donate books, contact Blankenship at email@example.com.