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Soon-to-be kindergartners hopped on a school bus for the first time, learned bus safety rules and heard about what will be their first day of school later this month.

St. Mary’s County libraries hosted kindergarten readiness activities this week at the Charlotte Hall and Lexington Park branches. The Leonardtown branch had its kindergarten readiness program July 26.

During the program participants had an opportunity to board a real school bus.

At the Charlotte Hall branch, children and their parents rode the bus Wednesday from the library to White Marsh Elementary School and back.

Rick Carroll, bus driver trainer for St. Mary’s public schools, spoke to children about boarding the bus, how to sit while on the bus and went over some safety tips.

Carroll explained that students should sit quietly with their bottoms down and feet forward.

Sitting properly on the bus helps keep passengers safe and sitting quietly allows the driver to hear what is going on around the bus outside, Carroll said.

After pointing out emergency exits, he explained that in the first couple weeks of school, the children will learn more about their bus and participate in fire drills.

Carroll drove them to the elementary school parking lot where they got off the bus and were able to see red lights and the long stop bar on the bus the way they would see them when the bus stops for them in the morning.

Carroll then got on the bus and signaled to the children that they could safely board again.

Rylee Watson, 5, who will start kindergarten at Patuxent Elementary School in Lusby, said after the ride that she remembered two rules — “sit down” and “hold on the bar,” or hand rail, when getting on and off the bus.

Melissa McDonald of Hollywood said that even though her son, William, 5, attended prekindergarten last year, he was still nervous about starting kindergarten at Hollywood Elementary School.

McDonald said she was glad to see the library and the school system work together to allow students to get a feel for the start of school and for the bus.

William seemed content working on one of several craft projects children’s librarian Tess Goldwasser had prepared for when everyone returned to the library, including an activity that encouraged them to describe things about themselves with words and drawings.

Children also participated in story time geared toward the first day of school and they sang a school-related song.

After the short bus ride, Abigail Higdon, 5, from Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School in La Plata, said she felt good about the first day of school.

Abigail said she will ride to school via car when classes begin. But to those who will be on the bus for the first time she said, “It’s not scary,” followed by “they’ll be OK.”

Lisa Wade of Mechanicsville said she and her daughter, Kassidy, 5, attend a lot of programs at the library. “This is her home away from home,” she said.

Wade said it was “awesome for [the children] to be able to be on a bus” as part of the library program.

There were 21 children in attendance Wednesday in Charlotte Hall and 20 children attended the Leonardtown program.

Parents received information related to health and student requirements during the program from the school system and various partners including the St. Mary’s Health Department, the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, the Judy Center and Connect Southern Maryland.

Jill Hutchison, Leonardtown assistant branch manager, said the library has been working for several years toward building up school readiness for preschool children so that they can be successful when it’s time for kindergarten. This was the first time the library has held a program geared toward preparing for the first day of kindergarten, but based on the response, Hutchison said the library would like it to become an annual program.

gphillips@somdnews.com