Logically, turnout last year was sporadic when the temperature hovered in the upper nineties or higher. Some days, two sweaty kids braved the heat for books. On milder afternoons, many more walked away with summer reads. So the haunting question throughout this year has been how to give away more books.
When homeroom teachers around Clarke County were given the Summer Food Service Program flyers to send home before school let out, the issue of low turnout during Bibliobike deliveries was potentially solved. The plan is to arrive when lunches are being distributed. Before or after kids and families get their meals, they will also be able to grab some books.
I toured the Broadacres, Rocksprings and Lay Park neighborhoods on May fifth to get a feel for resident density and find routes that minimize the number of hills. I snapped some photos, and if the ones above are any indication of the need for books in these communities, it’s going to be a successful summer.
Cruising the school bus loop provided a feel for how the rig handles, which is quite smooth. One of the first rides around town was a surprise visit this morning to Avid Books in Five Points to thank Rachel Watkins for her social media wizardry.
I passed out fliers in three neighborhoods yesterday afternoon, and talked with residents about the project. Curious and welcoming families discussed optimal days and times. At Kathwood Apartments, a father named Roberto offered to spread the word and said he knows a family who’ll likely donate books to the cause.
So deliveries begin next week. The (best laid) plan is to visit one locale per day at six in the evening so parents who work during the day will be home, along with kids who attend camps or daycare elsewhere. Here’s the tentative schedule:
The last load from school includes two panniers worth of nonfiction under a case my students call TheTransformer, because it unfolds into a picnic table and chairs when we enjoy lunch outside. It also happens to be the same one Luis Soriano brings with his Biblioburro while delivering books to rural villages in La Gloria, Columbia. The teacher who donated the books has a jar of homemade kimchi waiting for her in the workroom fridge.
On a wet Wednesday at the tail end of post-planning, two cartloads of books get loaded up and transferred from the classroom shelves, to the car, then to the house.
Summer officially begins when the last teachers’ meeting lets out. An hour later, I hop on the bike for a celebratory ride around town to visit potential Bibliobike stops (and forage for unseasonably early blackberries).
Kids are surprised to see a teacher on one of the first days of summer. Some run inside and grab their bikes to join me for a stretch. One former student named Carlos (a high school senior next year!) is at work, but his father invites me in for a rest and a cold drink of water. His mom is babysitting a handful of neighbors’ kids who fill the living room. I explain my plans for the summer and one girl’s eyes light up when she hears about books coming to her street. Storm clouds build, so I say goodbye and head home.
Listen to some songs from my Summer Bike playlist…
Omak Besar (Big Waves), by Tm Juke and The Jack Baker Trio
The bike and trailer arrived last week, and the maiden voyage to Costa de Jalisco on Barber Street for some avocados was a success! Many thanks to Brian Molloy at The Hub Bicycles for supporting literacy and cycling.
These are some of the books that inspired the idea for the Bibliobike. The first is about a boy in rural Appalachia during the Great Depression who is visited by a Pack Horse Librarian. Here’s a blurb from the publisher, Simon and Schuster:
High up on a mountain, right near the tippy-top, Cal and his family squeak out a living with their farm. There’s no time for visiting or reading or learning, and that suits Cal just fine. But then a woman starts coming around with loads of books for borrowing, and Cal has to wonder if there’s something to this reading after all.
A summer without books would be tragic for a once-reluctant reader whose love of books began during the school year. Bibliobike will keep kids connected to literature.
The following is a synopsis by Lee & Low Books of Richard Wright and the Library Card, written by William Miller.
As a child, Richard Wright loves to hear the stories his family tells, and he can’t wait to learn to read stories on his own. Because his family moves often in search of work, Richard has little opportunity to go to school. With the help of his mother, Richard does finally learn to read. However, they don’t have money to buy books, and few libraries in the South in the early 1900s are open to African Americans. At age 17, Richard seeks work in Memphis and lands a job as a helper and errand boy in an optician’s office. There he enlists the aid of a co-worker, Jim Falk, himself an outsider because he is Catholic. Falk helps Richard find a way to borrow the books he craves from the library. Richard reads everything he can get his hands on and knows he will never be the same again. For him, every page is “a ticket to freedom.” Soon after, Richard sets off for Chicago to make a new life for himself in the North.
Gregory Christie’s evocative illustrations capture the Jim Crow South superbly. Click here to read a conversation I had with Christie for Literacyhead Magazine in 2011.
Waiting for the Biblioburro, written by Monica Brown, is the bilingual story of librarian and teacher Luis Soriano Bohórquez. He travels with two burros loaded with books to rural villages in Columbia. Carlos Rendón Zipagauta directed a documentary for PBS about Bohórquez and you can visit Luis Soriano Bohórquez’s blog here.
Jeanette Winter’s book, The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, is about an Iraqi woman who has been a librarian for fourteen years. When war comes to her city, she struggles to save thousands of books from destruction.
Mom drove me to shifts at my first job at the Camden County Public Library in Kingsland, Georgia. At the age of fourteen, my sole task at the library was re-shelving books. I hated it. At the time, I planned on being a professional skater or soccer player, so spending quiet hours indoors was the last thing I wanted to. It’s curious how things work out.
The Bibliobike video was shot and edited by Joanna Brooks on an unseasonably warm afternoon in late February. Music includes Japancakes’ Vocode-Inn, Dinosaur Jr.’s cover of Just Like Heaven and Maserati’s Show Me the Season.