Magazine article Children's Voice

Good Reading Habits, from the Road

Magazine article Children's Voice

Good Reading Habits, from the Road

Article excerpt

When the "Gus Bus' rolls into one of the neighborhoods along its route through Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, kids don't just greet the bus with a smile and a wave. They come running to the bus with screams of glee, says Pat Kennedy, Coordinator of the Reading Road Show.

The white bus, painted with an animated emblem of a rabbit named Gus sitting atop a stack of books, is the main component of the Reading Road Show, a program run by the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services at Virginia's James Madison University (JMU). The vehicle makes weekly and monthly stops in low-income neighborhoods and at day care centers, family child care providers, and prekindergarten classes. Kennedy and the JMU students who assist her invite children and their parents or caregivers onto the bus, where they sit on cushioned benches and read books, sing songs, and perform finger plays.

Children in the day care programs and pre-K classes receive red book bags each month filled with four books, at least one of which is bilingual. Spanish-speaking children receive Spanish-language books in their bags. At the end of the month, children exchange the bags for new ones.

The purpose of the program, Kennedy explains, is to promote life-long reading by targeting preschool-age children and their parents. Putting the program on wheels makes it possible to reach into Virginia's rural Page and Rockingham Counties and the city of Harrisonburg, where many Spanish-speaking immigrants reside. The bilingual reading materials help the children become proficient readers in both their native and second languages, Kennedy says. And watching her and the JMU students read to the children provides valuable best practice lessons for parents and day care providers.

"The Spanish-speaking community is very happy to have books in their native language for their children," Kennedy says. "We've become a real community resource, and we've become a trusted entity in the Latino population, which I think is important. …

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