PUTNAM COUNTY – The Putnam County School System’s Words on Wheels (W.O.W) Bus has been serving the community with books since 2019 but has only been able to offer a limited number of Spanish books to children. Through the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation’s (GELF) Refuel grant the W.O.W. Bus received, they have expanded its library to over 1,000 books.
“We looked at our program and all that we have accomplished, and as we reflected on needs, we saw a huge need for Spanish books. We received $3,000 from the GELF grant, and $1,500 was used to build a section dedicated to the Spanish language,” said Dr. Mark Rodgers, W.O.W. Bus coordinator. “This is a rewarding experience for me. There is no greater thrill than to see a student’s face as they pick up a book, sit down and open it. These are their books, and they are so excited to take them home. The donation of books continues to be a need in our community, and we are grateful to have received this grant to be able to expand our library to reach more students.”
Through GELF’s Book Bus program, partnering school districts retrofit a decommissioned school bus with seating and shelving to house literacy resources. These Book Buses then travel to neighborhood sand community, creating an engaging learning space for families. Many serve communities faced with challenges to book access, such as library deserts or low-income neighborhoods, and partner with organizations offering additional services, such as food programs or health care providers. Educators distribute resources and lead reading workshops to combat learning loss and increase adult-child engagement with literacy.
The W.O.W. Bus offers books for pre-K to high school students and travels to schools and events all over the county to give the gift of reading.
“When the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation came to Putnam County to look at our W.O.W. Bus program, they said we were one of the most well-stocked programs in the state. This is only possible because our community donates books to our bus to pass on to other readers. We are incredibly grateful to our community for believing in literacy for our children and donating, and to First National Bank, who made this bus possible. We have one of the best communities,” said Dr. Rodgers.
GELF launched its Book Bus program in 2018, in partnership with local school systems, to establish mobile libraries that provide children and communities with access to high-quality resources. Driven by a mission to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee, GELF’s Book Bus program aims to combat student learning loss and promote a culture of reading outside of school by providing continued access to high-quality books and literacy tools.
“We are very proud of the Book Bus program and are grateful for the local partners, like Putnam County Schools, who make this initiative possible,” said James Pond, GELF President. “By bringing mobile libraries directly to Tennessee neighborhoods, we want to meet kids where they are, where they play, where they live, with the resources they need to continue reading and learning outside of the classroom.”
GELF provides two different grant opportunities for interested partners to launch or support an existing Book Bus in their community. The annual grant cycle opens in March. With support from Delta Dental of Tennessee and other corporate funding partners, GELF has provided grant funding to support 31 Book Buses.
The program is hopeful they can continue to grow the Spanish section of their bus as more grant funds are available and awarded.
Book donations are accepted all year long at the Putnam County Board of Education, 1400 E. Spring St. in Cookeville. To schedule the W.O.W. Bus or learn more, contact Dr. Mark Rodgers at firstname.lastname@example.org.