Ever since there has been summer vacation, kids have been looking for fun things to do in the months of June, July and August. This summer, the youngsters in Oswego City School District discovered it was fun taking part in literacy activities provided by the Oswego Bookmobile. The Bookmobile increased reading and reading related activities for many students while school was not in session, engaging their minds and imaginations with books, and preventing them from regressing in reading levels achieved during the school year.
It was heartwarming for Oswego Bookmobile Committee members and volunteers to see children dressed in pajamas eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Bookmobile, youngsters racing down the road on their bicycles excited to meet the Bookmobile, and little ones lining up to read their books to a gentle canine that hung on their every word.
Two AmeriCorps volunteers, Laura Taverni and Cynthia Kellogg, who worked on and off the Bookmobile, restocking books, lining up volunteers, and helping children find a book that is right for them, agree that their favorite part of their AmeriCorps position was interacting with the children and seeing them come back again and again for another book. This, they say, is by far the most rewarding.
The Oswego Bookmobile, in its maiden voyage this summer through the area of Oswego City School District residential areas, municipal parks, and schools, far exceeded expectations. Originally, the Bookmobile Committee set a goal of delivering 725 books to 325 children and looked to have 24 community members as volunteers. In reality, the Bookmobile delivered many more than 3,300 books to a total of 1,400 people, (80% children and 20% adults), and had 38 volunteers staff the Bookmobile. Each person who visited the Bookmobile received 2 books.
It was an exceedingly successful summer for the Bookmobile, which has come to be loved by the entire community. Joan Dain, a teacher in the Oswego City School District who initiated, and brought the Bookmobile program to fruition, along with a committee of local volunteers, said “The bookmobile was an inspirational experience for me. Starting this project and watching how children react to and come back to the bookmobile, week after week, especially in areas where students have limited access to books, was incredibly rewarding.” Every last person who participated, down to the Bookmobile’s driver, Kris Rookey, described the experience of bringing children and books together as one so rewarding that they definitely want to repeat it next summer.
Start-up costs for the first year of the Bookmobile’s operation were provided by a $12,000 grant from the Gifford Foundation, and donations of $25,000 from Entergy, $10,000 from Pathfinder Bank, and many books from community members, as well as support from Oswego County Youth Bureau, Glider Oil, Dynamic Sound and Security, and the River’s End bookstore.
The Bookmobile was seen for the last time this season at the Literacy Event on Saturday, September 24 at the Oswego Armory, after which it was stored for the winter. Storage space was donated by Oswego Port Authority.
Planning for next summer has already begun, with grant applications being written and submitted to fund the project. The Bookmobile will continue to give high quality reading materials in the summer months to children and parents in the Oswego School District through a partnership of the YMCA, Oswego City School District, SUNY Oswego, Oswego Public Library, and with support of AmeriCorps Volunteers, volunteers from the community and SUNY Oswego students.