Abingdon Elementary Summer ‘Book Bus’ Deemed a Success

by ARLnow.com August 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm 3,698 15 Comments

(Updated at 9:10 a.m.) Teachers and administrators at Abingdon Elementary School are declaring the first year of their summer “book bus” a success.

The book bus was launched this summer with the goal of providing enhanced reading opportunities for students at Abingdon, where nearly 53 percent of students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Once a week for five weeks, the bus would make stops in the community around Arlington, giving students the chance to check out books right in their neighborhood.

The bus was staffed by Abingdon teachers and the school’s principal, all of whom volunteered their time. Inside the bus were about 2,000 books donated by local businesses, nonprofit organization, a local author, and several publishers. Much of the equipment used to check out books — including barcode scanners — were also donated.

“It was almost completely subsidized, which is fabulous,”  said Abingdon principal Joanne Uyeda.

Over the course of four weeks, about 200 students checked out more than 700 books, according to Abingdon literary coach Erin Watson. For the bus’ fifth week , students returned their checked-out books, picked out a free donated book to keep, and entered to win one of four Barnes & Noble Nooks. The Nooks will be given out during a school reading assembly during the first week of school.

Uyeda said the ultimate goal of the book bus is to help close the “achievement gap” between Abingdon students and students in more well-to-do neighborhoods. By bringing elementary-reading-level books to the neighborhoods, and by making the book bus stops into a fun event, Uyeda said the bus was able to encourage more Abingdon students to read over the summer.

“You can trace about 80 percent of the achievement gap to summer reading loss, because middle class kids gain a month over the summer and disenfranchised kids lose three months,” Uyeda said. “By the time they leave elementary school they’re roughly two years behind, and they don’t make that up in middle school.”

Julie Bato, a parent of an Abingdon student and a teacher at Long Branch Elementary, said the book bus brings the community together and allows students to see their teachers during the summer.

“It’s great,” she said. “I love seeing all the neighborhood kids come out. The appreciation the staff has for these kids, some of whom might not get to the library over the summer… I just think that’s priceless. They’re the reason the kids want to come. They want to see their teachers, they want to see their principal.”

One young student was so grateful to the book bus volunteers that he brought them pudding cups and spoons on the last week.

Teachers and administrators both said they hope to bring the book bus back next summer.

“We want to keep doing it every summer, if we can,” said Susanna Smith, a reading teacher at Abingdon. “It’s a lot of fun seeing the students smile when they see their teachers during the summer.”

  • Ralph

    Awesome program! Thank you for everyone who volunteered or donated goods. This kind of stuff is wonderful.

  • RightWingWhacko

    This is a terrific idea and despite many who would prefer to use a kindle, this is a chance for a student to hold a book. Once they can do that, chances are good they’ll continue to do that. And we’re all the better when that happens.

  • Arlington Cat

    with minimal outside resources, Abingdon does do a lot for their students. Thanks Joanne for jumping on this.

  • Chris M.

    Seems like a nice program, but the metric is completely off base. Income does not drive literacy. Many poor, lower income places around the world have great literary rates.

    You most likely just gave books to the students who were already reading anyway. To claim “success” by using the number of books you gave away to low-income kids is not right.

    You need to identify the specific kids who are not reading, get books to them and then track their progress. I know this is more expensive, but if you show this kind of real success, you would get more funding as well as a real sense of accomplishment.

    • Ralph

      Sure, the program surely also had a benefit for kids who were already reading. So what?

      Rising tide, and all that.

    • Ivy

      This wasn’t a clinical peer-reviewed research study. This was just a great bunch of teachers and a super principal doing everything possible to get students motivated about school and reading.

      • Chris M.

        Ivy, it was not primarily described as a student/teacher get-together. It was described as a successful program “proving (sic) enhanced reading opportunities” for low income students. I was just pointing out how they might actually achieve the goal of closing the “achievement gap.” Also, insinuating that you’re illiterate because you’re poor is (1) insulting and (2) distracts from the real causal effects of illiterately.

        You don’t have to do a peer-reviewed study to be productive charity; you just have to spend some time to come up with some meaningful metrics. Just my two cents. That’s what a comment section is for.

        • MommyDearest

          Metrics are always good. But even in the absence of metrics, this programs seems beneficial. Frankly, who cares if the only kids who took advantage of the program were kids who were probably readers already? A lot of those kids can’t get to the library as often as they would like and perhaps read more books because the bus came to them. And, with this being neighborhood based, the odds are high that at least a few children who might not have otherwise read a single book over the summer came out with their friends and picked up a book.

          Kudos to the organizers of this. I would be interested in a followup post about how one can donate to this. As my kids have aged, I have lots of books in great condition that I would love to donate to something like this.

          • Chris M.

            Why do people around here like to insult poor people so much? Do you really think “those” kids can’t get to a library if they love books? That’s ridiculous. I grew up poor in RURAL Alabama and my parents got me to the library all the time.

            You can effectively use resources and create results, or you can ineffectively use resources and pat yourself on the back. That does not mean you make “THOSE” people better off.

          • Book Lover

            Chris M., you are correct that being poor does not automatically make you illiterate. However, it makes you MORE LIKELY to be illiterate, and it is a vicious cycle – if the parent is illiterate, the kinds of jobs available are going to be low-income jobs.

            From the APA.org website: “In a nationwide study of American kindergarten children, 36% of parents in the lowest-income quintile read to their children on a daily basis, compared with 62% of parents from the highest-income quintile (Coley, 2002).”

            Maybe this school year, the teachers can measure the improvement of kids who checked books out of the bookmobile vs. those that did not, and decide how to change the program for next summer.

    • jackson

      Just out of curiosity, which poor countries have great literacy rates? The places I’ve been, there is a direct correlation between income and literacy. If a kid works all day because the family needs what money he or she can make, the child generally doesn’t attend school.

  • Arlington Cat

    I was at a playground in Arlington surrounded by nannies, and they were al talking about their wards. One American with a southern drawl said of one boy “he talks good for his age.” A nanny I believed to be Jamaican born responded “he does talk well, doesn’t he.”

    I laughed.

  • Ted

    Nice to see an educational enrichment program in South Arlington schools.


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