Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Book Bus

Statistics state that about 60% of the students at my school are English Language Learners. I would argue that 100% of students in primary grades are English Language Learners; they are all building vocabulary and learning grammar. And what better way to learn than by being read to?

To ensure our students are being exposed to as much literature as possible, I talked to my EL 3-4-5 teachers about bringing the library to their students on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I got a lot of pushback.

"We want the parents to bring their children up to the library." (Me, too! But not many do.)

"We can't spare any more time in the week." (I'm not asking for more time.)

"We want them to learn to use the library." (Me, too.  This is in addition to library visit, not instead of.)

My original idea was to bring a cart of books down either first thing in the morning or at morning recess so students could exchange their books. It has morphed into something different and perhaps even more beneficial.

Meet our Book Bus:

When I purchased this shiny red cart equipped with bins, I never dreamt my librarian partner would convert it to a double-decker bus. She even lined two of the upper bins with shiny gold paper to distinguish them as the "return" bins, and she designed coordinating London-Tube-style bus stop signs that hang in the primary hallway, indicating where students can trade in their library books. It even has headlights and a bell! We often hear excited calls of "Here comes the bookbus!" as we approach the Early Learning hallway.
Students each receive a book bag on which we write their name and patron number. (They can decorate the other side if they wish.) When students want new books, they simply hang their bag outside the classroom on a hook by their Bus Stop sign. Once a day a library staff member drives the Book Bus along its route. If students are not busy with direct instruction, they are excused from class (2 or 3 at a time) to change their books. They LOVE it. If they are busy, they receive what we call "Librarian Surprise" and the staff member selects the books. Using our ipads with the DestinyQuest app, we check out books right there in the hallway. (To expedite the process, we bring most returns back to the desktop computer in the library.)

It has proven to be a fun way to give students access to more books and a wider variety of genres. We have a number of preschool and kindergarten boys who regularly limit their selections to sharks, dinosaurs, Star Wars, and Superman.  When they are in the library, they are allowed to choose what they want - even if it is the same thing every week. But those books rarely make it on board the book bus.  In the hallway, those same students choose from Caldecott medal books, books that support classroom curriculum, and books from a wide variety of Dewey sections.  There was some whining in the first weeks until they realized that they can still come to the library and choose their favorites. Parents have thanked us for providing variety in their reading diets.

There have been other benefits as well. We run reports that tell us which books have had 0 circs; those books are put on board the bus and are taken for a spin. Our quick and dirty solution for drowning in books to re-shelve is to place a number of those books on the Book Bus. And, finally, circulation statistics jumped an additional average of 12 books per student per year. (Not as high as I'd like to see it but trending favorably.)

Most importantly, perhaps, students in the early grades are learning that if you don't have to wait a whole week for new books.... because Every Day is Library Day!


  1. I love this!!! I have a flexible schedule so students come whenever they need to do their own checkouts. However, I have a handful of teachers who "forget" to send them. So I think I want to do my own book bus and go to those classes that are not coming in. I especially love the idea of placing books with the least number of circulations in as well to get them some love. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Cindy, I LOVE this idea! I have a few carts we could paint Red (or Blue for HP's Knight Bus for older grades). I might steal it if I'm even fully in the elementary. Where did you get the bags from?