United We Read: Notes from Bess the Book Bus’ Nationwide Outreach

Bess the Book Bus is nearing the end of her second nationwide outreach that will cover 36 states and deliver 27,000 books into the hands of children who otherwise may not have been able to experience the joy of owning their very own book.

Our trip began at the end of April and will end in the middle of September. This leg of the trip has taken us to areas such as Pittsburgh and Camden, NJ, two of the most underserved areas on this trip so far. We partnered with Transitions Lenses and VSP to bring both healthy sight and free books to the Boys and Girls Clubs there. Thanks to the support of Candlewick Press, Townsend Press, and our great friends at First Book, Bess is overflowing with brand new books, all of which were free.

Throughout this trip, it has been thrilling to see the dedication of the parents, guardians, and teachers as we cross the USA.  One parent walked her children two miles after seeing us on the morning news. She couldn’t believe that someone-anyone was in her neighborhood offering free eye exams, glasses with Transitions lenses, and free books. Both of her children ended up needing and receiving glasses. They also left with armloads of brand new books and ear-to-ear smiles. In fact several parents and grandparents rushed their kids to our event after hearing that we were in the neighborhood, and almost all of them needed and received glasses. Thanks to our partners at Transitions Lenses and VSP and to the doctors volunteering their time, our kids will also now have the healthy sight they deserve as each child is getting eye exams and free glasses when needed.  The look on the parents’ faces was one of tangible relief.  Even better, the kids came out of the mobile vision clinic full of pride, flaunting their new glasses.

Today we are in Maine, headed to Houlton where we will partner with Aid for Kids to put on a literacy fair. Thanks to First Book and the DOE, Bess will have 4,000 brand new books on board to give away in Maine alone. The kids are going to be so excited when they find out they will each receive up to five new books!

As I pack my bags and get ready to hit the road this morning I am filled with gratitude. We are happy to report that reading is alive and well in this country as is the excitement kids have for picking the just right brand new book they have been waiting for or finding that cherished favorite. I can hardly believe that this is my life; that so many great people surround me and that I have the opportunity to live my dream of spreading the joy of reading. I am also hopeful. I hope that one day all of our kids will have equal access to these very basic tools, things that they should already have and will need to succeed in school and in life.