My name is Cameron Brooks and I teach third grade at a Title I school in Athens, Georgia. Title I is a federal program that provides funding for schools with high numbers of students from low-income families.
Over the last decade, I have amassed an incredible classroom library as diverse as the students who inspire me daily. On the last day of school each year, after my students walk (or run) out of the building, I start preparing my classroom for two months of dormancy. Hundreds of books sit unopened while many kids begin their annual “summer slide,” when reading skills such as comprehension, fluency, accuracy and vocabulary degrade during the break.
Many children from poor families do not have access to literature at home. Every fall they return to school with an academic disadvantage and the long-term deficits are cumulative as they fall behind year after year.
All subjects build upon a foundation of literacy. But more importantly, literature provides a scaffold for skills that are more difficult to quantify than reading, writing, math, etc. In our classroom, critical thinking, empathy and social emotional learning begin with a read aloud. They start with story. Denying children opportunities to develop essential soft skills for two months out of the year sets them up for challenges throughout their education and beyond. Bibliobike will counter these negative effects by delivering books to kids and their families throughout the summer.
Another motivation for Bibliobike is strengthening community connections. Schools can be intimidating institutions for parents, especially individuals with limited educational experience and/or minimal proficiency in English. Given recent events, now is the time to proactively engage with increasingly marginalized groups.
Thirty-minute conversations twice a year during parent-teacher conferences are insufficient if education is intended to be a collaborative effort. When families lack transportation, I bike to students’ homes each year. Sitting in kitchens and living rooms, conversations are less guarded and feel more open than many conducted back in the classroom while seated on small plastic chairs under fluorescent lights. Delivering books to kids and their families weekly will initiate and fortify relationships and meaningful conversations that begin with books.
The decision to deliver literature via bicycle is rooted in a belief that cognitive, social and emotional growth can’t happen without physical wellness. For example, before Morning Meeting, we practice a mixture of Tai Chi, Chi Gong, mindfulness and deep breathing to prepare our bodies for the day. On Fridays, we celebrate the frenetic energy that builds as the weekend nears with an early morning run across the playground. Knowing that I bike or walk to school every day inspires my students to be more active. When they see me riding to their neighborhoods on the Bibliobike, it promotes the importance of physical wellness, as well as alternative forms of transportation.