“This motivates me to read more,” said Dayana Yanes, aboard a big blue bus parked outside Mayberry Elementary School this morning.
The East Hartford fourth-grader was one of dozens of students at her school who boarded the colorful Read Across America bus to hear You Will Change the World One Day, June Peters’ story of a ten-year-old girl whose heart leads her to help a stranger, and then an entire community. The guest reader was Tom Nicholas, president of the Connecticut Education Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Connecticut Education Association. CEF sponsors the literacy extravaganza with partners iHeartRadio and the National Education Association.
“It was a really nice story that teaches us to be kind to each other,” said Dayana, who herself reads to a younger sibling at home. “And the bus is great!”
The customized, 38-foot schoolbus—decorated with Dr. Seuss characters and outfitted with bookshelves, benches, carpeting, and hundreds of new books—is the centerpiece of CEF’s annual Read Across America Reading Bus Tour. The third annual bus tour rolls into eight eastern Connecticut schools in five towns this year to bring the joy of reading to hundreds of students in urban, suburban, and rural districts.
Complete with guest readers, costumed characters, crafts, and literacy activities, the bus tour also includes book bags filled with school supplies and a new book of their choice for nearly 1,000 students in East Hartford, Manchester, Killingly, Plainfield, and Sprague.
The gift of reading
“Our Reading Bus Tour is about creating lifelong learners by showing children how exciting reading can be,” said Nicholas. “We’re proud to work with our teachers to promote reading and get great books into their hands. We know that reading is an important factor in student achievement. Research shows that children who spend more time reading do better in school, and for that reason and so many others, there is no more important gift than literacy.”
Mayberry fourth-grade teacher Tracy Doyle, whose students were the first to board the bus this morning, said, “This event is awesome, and my students are very excited. The book they had read to them was a good choice, because we just finished Kindness Month and are setting new goals each week.”
She added that graphic novels, as well as realistic fiction they can relate to, are perennial favorites among children her students’ age.
“Fun activities that encourage children to keep reading are important, because finding books that they like to read, especially at this age, can be challenging. Some students are struggling with the foundations of reading, and others are immersing themselves in video games or other activities, so anything that encourages them to read is great in my book. They especially like the fact that they get to take a book home with them and keep it.”
That was a sentiment shared by students in Plainfield, where the bus tour kicked off last Friday. Among each group who participated, the reaction to receiving a free book of their choice was an excited, “To take home?”
Free books this year include Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody and the Bucket List, Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, R.J. Palacio’s 365 Days of Wonder, and a selection from the New York Times bestselling I Survived series.
The bus also stopped at East Hartford’s Silver Lane Elementary School this afternoon and will travel to Manchester tomorrow, where guest readers include iHeartRadio personality Renee DiNino.
Read Across America, the largest literacy event, is a reading motivation and awareness program started by the National Education Association that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss. The event has been so well received that it has expanded from a one-day celebration into a weeklong reading event with more than 45 million students, parents, and teachers participating in reading parties, community read-ins, activities, character parades, book fairs, and more.