I walked into work on Sunday and saw a massive stack of graphic novels on the counter. The stack was so large I thought that perhaps someone on staff was reorganizing the entire section. Just as I was about to ask about it, a woman in pigtails with a sharp focus added more to it, apologizing for taking over part of the counter. I assured her amassing a large pile of books is never a problem. I asked about the sheer number of graphic novels she was purchasing and she said they were all for the Starksboro READ Book Wagon.
I followed her back to the graphic novel section, which was fairly decimated, and asked more about the Book Wagon. Secretly, I’ve always wanted a Flying Pig Book Mobile, so the idea of a Book Wagon was intriguing. The customer, Mary O’Brien, the Book Wagon coordinator, explained the simplicity of the wagon. First let me explain that Starksboro is a lovely small town in rural Vermont, with surprising pockets of poverty and a population of under 1,700. Once a week a volunteer (they rotate weeks) drives to the three trailer parks, three day care centers and the old school house. Children get to pick out one book and keep it. Forever.
This is not a lending library on wheels, this is a free bookmobile. Mary explained that the number of free books they’ve given away just keeps climbing, up from 65 at the beginning of the summer to just over 90 last week. Think of the ripple effect of this. Ninety kids took home books to keep last week. Almost 100 children added a book to their personal collection, or started a collection. To own a book when there might not be any in the house is a huge thing. And the Book Wagon team seems to be very attentive to what the kids have been clamoring for. Mary only bought graphic novels and board books. She knows these kids and wants to have books they’re eager for, or have asked about, on the wagon. The wagon raises money for these book purchases through donations and a yearly auction, and they spend it wisely. We helped Mary stretch her budget by offering 20% off all her purchases.
Imagine you’re a kid in one of these seven locations when the book wagon, which sadly is just the volunteer’s car (I was hoping for an ice cream truck with shelving) pulls up: you get books brought to your location. So, if no one can drive you to the library, you can still get books. You get to browse among the titles, many of which are available on the wagon because you said you wanted them, and you get to take one, read it and keep it. The validation for young readers with the READ Book Wagon is just marvelous. The power of the written word is being reinforced every week. And the Book Wagon folks seem to divide their purchases among several independent bookstores, so everyone benefits. So many people wonder about how to get kids to be readers – the Starksboro READ Book Wagon has that all figured out.