Betsy School Bus prepares for second year with longer schedule

Published 8:00 am Monday, June 3, 2019

The Betsy School Bus is now geared up and ready to run for another summer, this time bigger and more ambitious than ever before.

Carla Whiles, director of the book bus, said this will be its second year of operation.

“Last year, we did it for four weeks,” Whiles said. “We gave out over 2,000 books to over 900 students.”

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This year, they plan to go for five weeks instead of four, and with one year of experience under their belt already, they plan to serve even more children in 13 different neighborhoods.

The book bus tours neighborhoods three days a week during the summer time. Children who visit the traveling library are allowed to claim three books they see as their own permanently at no cost to the child or parent.

“The intention is to get children excited about reading,” she said. “These kids run towards the bus.”

There is another motive as well, however: sliding academic levels during the summer months.

“One of our teachers who works the bus did her dissertation study on the effects of this school bus,” she said. “We did statistics on 100 of the children, and we took their spring reading assessment scores and compared those to their following fall reading assessment scores. All of those children had a significant slowdown in that academic slide.”

It is not just younger children who benefit from the bus, however, as the bus stocks books for older children in middle and even high school, stocking book series like Twilight.

The bus itself is the collaborative effort of a variety of organizations, including the Northeast Community Credit Union, Niswonger Children’s Hospital and more. The Tennessee College of Applied Technology was responsible for renovating the inside of the bus, pulling out the seats and installing the book shelves.

“All of these books were donated to us,” Whiles said. “We have not needed a formal book drive yet.”

Whiles said part of the idea came from a similar “Book-mobile” when she was a child, and other school systems in the area do similar book programs with varying methods.

For Whiles, though, the upcoming second year has led to a contagious excitement from her and, her fellow bus workers and the students.

“Previous kids have been helping talk it up,” she said. “They ask ‘Are you coming to my neighborhood?’”

The bus’s schedule is available on the Elizabethton City Schools website or on the Betsy Book Bus’s Facebook page. The bus will run from June 11 to July 19, and its schedule will run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.