Summertime is a lonely time for school librarians. As Jenny Granger sat in her library at Emerson Elementary School in Snohomish on Tuesday, it was just too quiet.
"It’s like a tomb in here," she said as she sat among the cavernous stacks of books.
Granger decided to make some noise this summer. With the help of the Snohomish Education Foundation, she took an old school bus and turned it into a roving bookmobile. Driving her is the desire to make sure students don’t lose what they’ve learned in school all year during the lazy days of summer.
"If kids can read six books during the summer and keep their reading level up, they’ll be great when fall comes," she said, driving the Snohomish Book Cafe to her first stop of the day.
Granger was raised by a single mom on welfare in a Bellingham trailer park, but she was instilled with a love for learning. Her mom graduated from Western Washington University and Granger went on to a career in education. She takes her mobile library to trailer parks and low income areas around the district, hoping to pay her good fortune forward.
"It's sort of come full circle," she said. "While it may just be a book we’re giving to a child, the opportunity is everything."
Granger pulls in to the Circle H trailer park where immigrant children play with goats and run barefoot. When they see a school bus coming down the road, they avert their eyes. When the see the bus has been outfitted with a set of big, pink eyelashes over the headlights, their curiosity grows. As Granger steps out of the bus, some recognize her from Emerson and run to give her hugs.
"We build relationships with these kids," she said. "We want to get them excited."
Every child Granger encounters this summer will get free books to keep forever. She has collected thousands from grants and donations.
"We've focused on stuff the kids really like. Graphic novels, anything to get them to read. Anything," she said.
The kids can keep as many as they can carry. In some cases, though, all they need to carry is one.
"She said book!" exclaimed Heidi Warren, pointing to her daughter, Desiree. "She opened it up and pointed to the baby and said 'baby!'"
At two years old, Desiree had never owned a book before. Now she does.
"Her big brother has a reading disability. He’s getting a lot better and so is she, now, because she just got books for the first time!" said the joyous mother.
While the program is brand new, it seems to be working. You can read it on the kids’ faces as they paw through the bins of books. By the second stop on Tuesday, the bus was already running low.
"That's a good problem to have," said Granger. "We've got plenty more."
It's a way for her mother’s gift of reading to start a new chapter in another child’s life.
"Lots of people along the way shape the people we are, so if this can help, all the better."
You can find out more about the Snohomish Book Cafe' and where it will be this summer at: https://www.smore.com/2et7g