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Books on Wheels

Reading is taking off in Rochester, N.Y., with the success of a program run by the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority that puts children's books on the city's buses so children can read during the ride.

The transportation authority initiated "Books on Buses" in January 2001, with the goal of not only encouraging reading and giving young people a way to pass the time, but also of finding a way to involve the community and education groups, said agency Chief of Staff Mark Aesch.

"We've got hundreds of thousands of kids who ride our buses every year, and what a wonderful opportunity for them to either read a book themselves or have their parents read to them," said Mr. Aesch, who came up with the idea.

The initial goal was to get 5,000 books donated by the community. In less than three months, that goal was met.

Now, the program has more than 50,000 books that are distributed among the city's 250 buses. Students and teachers from more than 30 schools donated books.

"School kids are so proud to have been able to collect books from home," Mr. Aesch said, "and be able to share with other kids who might not have the same access to books that they do."

Valerie Clark, who teaches 2nd through 4th grade at Quest Elementary School in Hilton, N.Y., agrees.

Last spring, she coordinated a schoolwide effort to collect new and slightly used books for the program. Her school, with approximately 400 students, ended up donating more than 1,000 books.

"These children live in a rural area," she said of the school community about 20 miles from Rochester. "Some of them just can't imagine riding on a [public] bus or kids not having books."

The transportation authority installed special racks on each bus to hold about six books—all children's stories geared toward ages 5 to 12 and written in multiple languages, including Spanish and French.

Because buses are assigned to different routes each day, children will always have variety, Mr. Aesch said. Signs are posted on each rack asking children to return books at the end of the ride, but on some occasions, pupils have asked bus drivers if they can take a book home to finish it, he said.

The bus drivers always say yes.

"People have really flocked to support the program," Mr. Aesch said.

—Nashiah Ahmad

Vol. 22, Issue 10, Page 3

Published in Print: November 6, 2002, as Take Note

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