Just after pulling into Broadacres Homes around eleven thirty, a former student with a great big smile walking with a friend calls-out, “Hey Mr. Brooks!” I ask where lunches are distributed during the summer.
“Down the hill at The Rec.”
A familiar face is a good sign on the summer’s first delivery.
A white Athens Housing Authority van pulls up to the community center, then two men unload large plastic bins and carry them inside. The containers are filled with lunches Athens residents can pick up between noon and one.
A handful of folks peer out of their windows and doors as the Bibliobike gets set up. Two women walking toward the community center are the first to ask what this is all about. After browsing, both choose Dr. Seuss books for grand-kids. Next, a first grader leading her lunch-coated baby brother by the hand emerges from the building and heads toward the rig. They immediately snatch two books with Elmo on the cover. Another first grader points to the large face on the cover of a Nelson Mandela biography and asks her great-aunt, “Who’s that?”
Yes, she wants the Mandela book, I think to myself.
“You’ll learn about him in time. Get something you know about,” the woman responds sternly.
The curious reader chooses Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Green Eggs and Ham.
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.