School buses in midcoast Maine have a unique feature. Thanks to Books on the Bus, each seat has a specially designed, pocketed seat covers filled with donated books. The purpose is twofold: (1) to provide kids with convenient access to books and (2) to help to improve bus behavior.
Most of the books are donated to the program and are then labeled with a "Books on the Bus" sticker so as not to get books mixed-up with school/ library books. Kids are encouraged to "Read, Share, Borrow, or Keep" any book they want and buses are restocked as needed. The program was started in partnership between Sheryl Ritchie (coordinator) and the Patten Free Library. The program kicked off on March 2, 2018 and has since expanded it community literacy outreach in a number of ways.
Since its inception, Book on the Bus has expanded its programming to stock a "Book Nook" for middle school students and with the Bath Area Family YMCA to stock a large bookcase with children's books (all available to Read, Share, Borrow, or Keep). In addition, each month, Books on the Bus provides a new book to students participating the school backpack program. During COVID, Books on the Bus made and distributed hundreds of "book bags" for kids. Each bag included 2-3 books plus fun items like stress balls, brain teasers, crayons, activity books, and stickers. These were then distributed during meal pick up and school supply pick up at local schools and through the YMCA's food distribution program.
"This is such a WONDERFUL idea! I wish every city in the USA offered this to our children - Parent of Student
Sheryl has big dreams, including a free bookmobile that delivers books to local kids and surrounding communities. Her real wish is that her midcoast Maine town is known as a community that values literacy, books, and its kids. This dream is already coming to fruition, with formation of the Bath Book Bash - a children's book festival organized in partnership with the Patten Free Library. It debuted *virtually* in 2020 with 21 authors and illustrators.
"I've learned that people want to help. They may not always know how to go about it, but given the opportunity to donate time, money, or books, people will step up to help their community, especially when it comes to helping kids."