Arlington, VA

Drivers may soon see an old school bus tooling down Wilson Blvd and delivering books, thanks to funding from an Arlington-based nonprofit.

Read Early and Daily (R.E.A.D.) recently received a $50,000 ‘A Community Thrives’ national grant from the Gannett Foundation. R.E.A.D. secured the grant by pitching a traveling book bus that would bring books to people in Arlington who have trouble accessing them.

R.E.A.D. founder Jennifer Sauter-Price said she was “over the moon” about the grant in a social media message to ARLnow.

“Our hope is the Book Bus will be a bookstore for all families,” she said. “Another component while we sell books is to educate customers about book deserts and the inequities of book ownership and how it affects school readiness.”

Sauter-Price got the idea of a book bus from a popular mobile toy shop she helped run as part of a lending library in Austin, Texas. She now wants to travel around Arlington with books that feature diverse characters and stories about acceptance. In total, she has distributed 1,100 free books to about 250 children in Arlington since starting the nonprofit last year.

“We are proud of the work R.E.A.D. has done to enhance the Arlington, Virginia community,” said Andy Yost, Gannett’s chief marketing officer.

“At Gannett, our mission is to connect and empower our readers to make a difference in the communities they are a part of,” Yost said. “Through A Community Thrives, we are further fueling our mission and purpose.”

A Community Thrives has raised more than $6.5 million since 2017 for projects benefiting communities nationwide.

R.E.A.D. currently distributes free children’s books to gathering places around Arlington, like Mr. Moore’s Barbershop on Lee Highway, where young readers are encouraged to talk about the book they’re reading while they get a haircut.

People also buy books directly from the nonprofit’s website, or sign up for monthly subscription book boxes, which Sauter-Price says help fund the books she gives away for free — a business model she hopes to continue with the bus, too.

Now Sauter-Price is hoping to buy a decommissioned school bus and transform it into a bookmobile.

“The most important thing is to make sure it’s waterproof and temperature controlled for the books,” she said. “Then to create a fun children’s bookstore vibe inside that will be engaging for kids. Then the not-fun stuff: insurance, gas, Wi-Fi, licenses. My hope after all this is we will have funds leftover for more books.”

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Sauter-Price

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