On a roll: Tyrone’s ‘book bus’ making rounds throughout the district

On a roll: Tyrone’s ‘book bus’ making rounds throughout the district

Tyrone Area Elementary preschool teacher Lilly Miller reads a story to a child on the district’s book bus.
Courtesy photo

TYRONE — Since it first rolled out in the summer of 2018, the goal of the Tyrone Area School District’s “book bus” has been to provide opportunities for students to check out and read books over summer vacation, according to Superintendent Leslie Estep.

This year, the bus has already started making its weekly rounds throughout the district, with preschool teachers Lilly Miller and Heather Becker manning the bus as it visits kids who don’t live within a short walking distance of the public library. The wheels on the bus will go round and round to encourage children to read every Tuesday until Aug. 13, school officials said.

While on the bus, students can enjoy a snack and listen to a story read to them by the teachers. After storytime is over, students build crafts to make characters in the story come to life, like “Pete the Cat” headbands, bear puppets and “Elephant and Piggie” masks. For July 4, the kids will read patriotic books and make flags as their craft, Miller said.

They also have an opportunity to check out a book from the bus and return it the following week, she said, adding this is her second year operating the bus.

“It’s fun because we get to go out and see the kids that we don’t get to see all summer because we are out of school,” Miller said.

Tyrone Area Elementary preschool teacher Heather Becker reads a story to a group of children on the district’s book bus. The bus will visit various destinations within the school district every Tuesday until Aug. 13.
Courtesy photo

Last week, she said there was a 4-year-old child who had his little brother on the bus. The boy, referring to his brother, told Miller, “he can’t do crafts.” Miller replied, “Yes, he can.”

“That was cute,” Miller said. “He was so proud of his little brother.”

In her first year on the bus, Becker said she’s having a blast showing kids how reading can be a fun hobby and helping them find books they want to read. One child who attends every week is interested in reading about ferrets, but they “don’t have ferret books yet — we’re working on it,” she said.

“It’s fun to see what they’re interested in. Sometimes it’s things that we wouldn’t expect. I would never expect kids to ask about ferrets, but they did,” Becker said. “I think it’s great to encourage the love of reading, not necessarily for the academic part of it.

“Let them find books they love to read and do it for fun and not just because they have to all the time.”

About 50 kids jumped on the bus for the opening week of June 11, she said, noting participation the following week took a slight hit because of the heat.

“In the afternoon, I think everybody is at the park and pool, so there wasn’t as much in the afternoon,” Becker said. “We still had about 40 kids on and off the bus (and) every Tuesday, we’ll be around.”

Each week, the bus starts at 8:15 a.m. at the elementary school’s cafeteria parking lot before making stops from 9:30-10 a.m. at Sylvan Acres’ visitor parking lot and from 10:15-10:45 at Cold Springs Apartments, beside the playground along Cranberry Street in Snyder Township. The bus returns to the elementary school for an hour at 11 a.m.

In the afternoon, the bus will be parked for 30 minutes at various locations. At noon, it will be on Garden Alley near the Washington Terrace apartments before moving at 12:45 p.m. to the Tyrone Park Apartments’ parking lot beside Rite Aid pharmacy; Blair Square near the Tyrone Townhomes, 1:30-2 p.m.; Pine Alley near the Park Avenue Playground, 2:15-2:45 p.m.; and pavilion No. 1 at Reservoir Park, 3-3:30 p.m.

The books on the bus are for children ranging from preschool to fourth grade, but Becker and Miller said they encourage older kids who want to listen to the story and make a craft to attend. The district used a Community Innovation Zone grant to help fund the project by retrofitting the vehicle and converting it from a bus with seats to a mobile library with shelves and books, Estep said.

She said the bus has run every summer since the project’s inception, except for 2020, when social gathering was discouraged due to COVID-19.

Mirror Staff Writer Matt Churella is at 814-946-7520.

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