So many books, so little time. Through August 17, students living near the borders of Kent and Barry counties will have a very unique opportunity to power through their summer reading lists.
An old school bus turned mobile library, the “B.Bus” travels to numerous locations to provide students living in rural communities with easy access to reading materials.
Born as a partnership between Thornapple Kellogg Schools, Delton Kellogg, Hastings, Maple Valley, Thornapple Credit Union, Barry County YMCA and First Presbyterian Church, more than 1,200 books have been loaned to the community this summer.
Allison Hinton, Community Outreach Director for Barry County YMCA, serves as the B. Bus coordinator.
“This is important for so many reasons,” Hinton said. “Getting books into the hands of kids and families to bring communities together and mostly to lessen the summer learning loss. Many kids can not get to a library in the summer, so by bringing the books to them, they still get to read and enjoy.”
Each location along the 17-stop-route is one hour long and includes outdoor and indoor games in addition to books. “We encourage kids to get two to five books in their reading level and interest,” Hinton said.
The B.Bus also has books for adults and a large collection of Spanish and bilingual books from infant to adult.
The most popular books of the summer so far: Captain Underpants, Maze Runner, Harry Potter and Pinkalicious.
Siblings Chloe, Gage and Remmy McFall have been visiting the B.Bus at Cider Mill Mobile Home Park every week for new summer reading materials. Equipped with three books on sharks, Chloe usually chooses stories about animals.
“I learn about sharks from my teacher and now I am learning more about sharks from my books,” Chloe said. “Sharks are one of my favorite.”
During her next visit to the B.Bus, Chloe plans to learn more about spiders.
Emma Houtrow, a YMCA employee, works on the bus each week. “Interacting with the kids is my favorite part, hands down,” she said. “These kids get to find books that they love and then enjoy their summer learning in a fun way.”
Susie and Timmy Doxtater were headed to the lake to go fishing, but first, they made sure they stopped by the B.Bus so they could get new books for the week. Both students at Thornapple Kellogg schools, reading is an important part of the Doxtater family’s day.
“We come here every week,” Doxtater said. “They love picking out books and I love that they have a chance to do this right here in the community. We’re very grateful.”
“Most of our customers are repeat, but we are always having more people stop in,” Hinton said. “One of the best parts of our library is that we do not care what school you attend or township you live in. If you want to check out a book, we will let you.”
Hinton said “we are serving kids in our targeted school districts, but also have many Wayland Union kiddos plus other districts as kids travel to visit grandparents and family.”
The bus is funded through grants and donations, including a large start-up from First Presbyterian Church in Hastings. The project also received several gifts from Barry Community Foundation, Great Lakes Energy Fund, all four Hastings elementary schools’ PTAs, Thornapple Kellogg PTA and Delton-Kellogg P.I.E group.
“Thornapple Kellogg and Hastings ran coin wars sponsored by Thornapple Credit Union for the bus and the Hastings Education Enrichment Foundation, Kiwanis Hastings, MEI Delton and Miller Real Estate contributed as well,” Hinton said. “We’re so grateful for all our sponsors.”
As an added bonus, students who have a KickStart to Career account, a program that introduces the concept of savings and teaches families the importance of financial literacy, will get an extra $5 added to their accounts after they visit the B.Bus five times throughout the summer.