Book Buses Drive Literacy

August 29, 2019

Governor's Early Literacy Foundation's Summer Mobile Literacy Units, or "Book Buses" make an impact on literacy efforts in the community. With support from the Appalachian Regional Commission and several Northeast Tennessee school systems, these Book Buses promote early literacy and work to prevent the "Summer Slide" in students. 


The mission of Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) is to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee. Since 2004, GELF has sustained Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program statewide in Tennessee, funding half of the cost of books mailed statewide and providing volunteer training for affiliate programs in each of Tennessee's 95 counties. In addition to supporting the statewide Imagination Library program, GELF, with support from the Appalachian Regional Commission and communities in Northeast Tennessee, promotes early childhood literacy through these impactful Book Buses. 

Participating school systems take decommissioned school buses and retrofit them with shelving and seating to house books, literacy activities, and engagement resources. The bus programs travel into high poverty neighborhoods during the summer months providing books, literacy-rich activities, and, in some cases, free meals or a snack to the families living in these communities. Through these interactions and activities, GELF and the school systems are emphasizing the importance of early literacy and providing continued access to books and reading material to participating families, business and community leaders, and educators.

Without exposure to rich texts throughout the summer, many students fall behind academically. Also known as the "Summer Slide," students can have the tendency to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. The Book Bus program works to prevent the "Summer Slide" in students and help Tennessee meet the Read to Be Ready literacy goal of 75 percent of third grade students reading proficiently by 2025, an initiative of the TN Department of Education. In 2018, GELF provided funding, through an Appalachian Regional Commission grant, to launch these buses in Northeast Tennessee, in partnership with three school systems. Additional funds were raised in the local communities of the three school systems. This summer (2019), four more bus programs were launched. 

Here is a little bit more about the Book Bus program and each partnership:


Elizabethton City Schools "Betsy Book Bus"

Elizabethton City Schools launched the Betsy Book Bus program in the summer of 2018.betsy-bus.jpg The purpose of the program is to improve literacy outcomes in underserved student populations in various communities of Elizabethton. The Betsy Book Bus delivers books in neighborhoods and summer programs to children ages birth to 18 who may select a book from the bus to keep and add to their home libraries. Volunteers are on board to enroll eligible children in the Imagination Library. The Elizabethton program is made possible through the donation of books by Elizabethton families, the donation of the bus by Elizabethton City Schools, funding from Governor's Early Literacy Foundation through the Appalachian Regional Commission, support from the First Tennessee Development District and generous community sponsors including Northeast Community Credit Union, Carter County Bank and others.







Click here to view more photos of the Elizabethton Betsy Book Bus.


Unicoi County Schools "Aspire" Book Bus

The Unicoi County Schools Book Bus program provides a valuable opportunity for childrenUC-BOOK-BUS-PROOF-compressed.jpg and families in targeted areas across the county to engage around reading during the month of July, when there are fewer existing school programs in operation. The focus is on early literacy, and the program capitalizes on a child’s natural curiosity and love for books, through interactive read-alouds, songs, poems, stories, and connected experiential learning. There are also family education, health and nutrition components that Unicoi County School’s partners help support. Unicoi County's Book Bus is named ASPIRE (meaning to direct one’s hopes or ambitions towards achieving something). ASPIRE carries the message to children and the community that within each person lies the potential to achieve their hopes and ambitions. 

Click here to view more photos of the Unicoi County "Aspire" Book Bus.


Carter County Schools "R.E.A.D.S" Book Bus

The Carter County School System partnered with GELF to develop a Book Bus to increase and48258895142_10c5d363da_z.jpg promote literacy in the outlying areas of the district that do not have access to a local public library. This grant helps the school system along with community partners and high school career and technical education programs to reach this goal. The goal of the Book Bus is to place books in the hands of students to enhance reading proficiencies in Carter County and to promote a love of reading in the community. The bus is a retrofitted Carter County school bus, prepared with shelving and storage for books.

Click here to see more photos of the Carter County R.E.A.D.S Book Bus.


Bledsoe County Schools Book Bus 

In partnership with Bledsoe County Schools, the Bledsoe County Book Bus was launched in Summer 2019. In three months, the bus traveled more than 50 hours through rural neighborhoods, bringing the joy of reading to children and families.

Click here to view more photos of the Bledsoe County Book Bus.


Campbell County Schools Book Bus

In partnership with Campbell County Schools, the Campbell County Book Bus was launched in Summer 2019. In three months, the bus traveled more than 400 hours through rural neighborhoods, visiting children and providing literacy resources for families.

Click here for more photos of the Campbell County Book Bus.


Morgan County Schools Book Bus: "Gus the Bus"

In partnership with Morgan County Schools, the Morgan County Book Bus was launched in Summer 2019. In three months, the bus traveled more than 40 hours through rural neighborhoods, engaging children and families around reading.

Click here for more photos of Morgan County "Gus the Bus."


Johnson County Schools Book Bus

In partnership with Johnson County Schools, the Johnson County Book Bus was launched in Summer 2019. In three months, the bus traveled more than 40 hours through rural neighborhoods, providing children and families with access to books and literacy resources.

Click here for more photos of the Johnson County Book Bus.