Donated books are now available for students to enjoy and learn from on their way to and from school, thanks to the efforts of the St. Mary’s County Library and public school officials.
The students need books in their hands to help provoke reading interests and keep them busy during long bus rides, Andrea Owens, Dynard Elementary School principal, said in an interview.
The Books on the Bus program rolled out officially on May 4, and students now have access to a variety of books, including reading material for prekindergarten through fifth grade, Owens said.
There are picture books, nonfiction and some chapter books that have been donated or were withdrawn from the library, Mary Ann Bowman, deputy director of the St. Mary’s County Library, said.
The books help keep the kids on the bus occupied and out of trouble, Bowman said. “We want children to have books, and don’t care if they keep the books,” she said. “We’re not worried about the books being returned, because some children don’t have books at home to read.”
Owens said while the majority of Dynard students are not in that situation, “we’re expecting to have to keep replenishing the supply” of books.
Being able to read books helps children with their vocabulary and “when they hear someone reading to them, if the words rhyme or words with multiple syllables,” it helps with and phonological skills, or how sounds are organized and used in a language, Bowman said.
Michael Blackwell, director of the public library system, said the library initially reached out to Title I schools, which are schools that have a high percentage of students from low-income families. Dynard, which is not a Title I school, was the first to volunteer for the program, and he said he looks forward to more schools taking part in the program.
The books are “not costing any taxpayer money and are age appropriate,” he said. The bus drivers “love the program because the bus is quiet. The kids and teachers love it, too. It gives some kids the chance to have their own book because they may have never owned one before.”
Community members are welcome to donate new and gently used children’s books suitable for elementary school students. Financial donations are also welcome for the library to purchase books for the program, Blackwell said.