Nylalah Dye is sure she will be prepared for fourth grade this year, thanks in part to the Books on the Run.
“I come because I don’t want to lose my smartness before next year,” said Nylalah.
“I come because I like to read,” said her neighborhood friend Auayah Holmes, who will be in third-grade.
Children quickly form a line at the playground of the Riverview Apartments whenever the truck and trailer filled with books drives slowly through the streets Many carry their previously checked-out books and are there to get something new to read.
Books on the Run, in its third year in Sparta, makes 20-minute stops throughout the district’s community every two weeks. Other stops this year included the Ida Red Apartments, Sparta Townhouses, Glenwood Estates and Dietrich Farms.
In 2016, the trailer made 351 visits and loaned 626 books; in 2017 there were 284 visits, with 506 books loaned.
Over the first two years, nearly half of the books taken out were not returned: 335 the first year and 227 the second. But organizers aren’t worried.
“That just means there are 562 more books in kids’ homes,” said Debra Dufour, who coordinates the program. “We are increasing books in the home — a good cause.”
It takes “an army of volunteers” to make the effort happen, said Dufour.
Six to eight volunteers staff Books on the Run for each trip. Todd Yemc hitches up his truck for each visit, and son Kaleb tags along to help at each stop. Safety cones are placed; tables are set up to check books in and out; and volunteers staff the tables, help students select books, and pass out snacks.
The trailer was secured through a grant from the Sparta Education Foundation. Volunteers helped customize the interior design as well as taking on the monumental task of determining grade levels and adding labels to the books.
Books were secured from a variety of sources, including the purchase of Sparta Cooperative Preschool books, literacy grant funding from the Michigan Department of Education, a donation of all level specific books from retiring teacher Sue Blackwall, as well as donations from community members and friends of staff.
“Many hands and hours of work went into planning, designing, organizing and getting this project into a reality,” said Dufour. “I’d like to thank everyone involved, there are too many to name that assisted us and will in the future to keep this project a living part of our ‘reading community.’”