Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Bookmobile Day

I fell in love with reading because of the bookmobile.

Let me explain.

As a kid, we lived in a rural area with few other kids in the neighborhood. When school let out for the summer there really wasn't a whole lot to do. Sometimes my mom and I would take the bus into town, or one of my older sisters would come for the day, but for the most part I was hanging around the house. Needless to say, the days could get really long.

Enter the bookmobile.

Every other week the bookmobile would come to a community center nearby and we'd walk down to meet it. The rule was that I was allowed to take out as many books as I wanted, but I had to carry them all myself. Oh my word, was it heaven! I'd always been a reader and a devoted user of the school library during the academic year, but the bookmobile represented an embarrassment of riches. Suddenly there was no cranky school librarian restricting what sections I could look in (though I was a good reader, she believed younger students should only have access to picture books. I chafed at the ridiculousness of that restriction). There were chapter books, series with recurring characters, books we'd read in the classroom that I wanted to re-read, and entirely new authors to explore. And all of it there for me to take home, as long as I could carry it!

So because of that I continue to have a soft spot for bookmobiles. The very mission of these programs appeals to me, to take the library to those who might otherwise not have access to it, to open up the wealth of resources the library contains and take it out on the road. Sprout and I go to the library every week, and that's a commitment I plan to keep up until he will no longer tolerate it (by then I'm hoping he's been bit by the reading bug). And maybe that means he won't know what a bookmobile is, or what it does, so I've dug up a couple of titles to try to explain the whole thing to him.

In Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, readers will tag along with librarian Molly who accidentally takes her bookmobile into the zoo. In typical this-could-only-happen-in-a-picture-book fashion, Molly decides to just set up shop there and see what happens. Pretty soon all the zoo animals fall under the spell of the bookmobile (I told you these things have magic powers!) and are clamoring for books. Naturally this leads to a skirmish or two -- evidence the bears who "licked all the pictures right off of the pages" -- but Molly handles it all in indomitable librarian fashion. I read this to Sprout the other night and he was really taken by Marc Brown's riotous illustrations, more so than the text I'm sorry to say. But this is one that an older child would dearly love I'm sure, particularly for all the small details hidden throughout (the bunnies reading Goodnight Moon, for instance, or the scorpion who is a literary critic). Fun!

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston is another lovesong to librarians and mobile libraries. Dorothy's dream is to work in a "fine brick library" one day, so she completes her education. But when she and her husband move to a rural area, there is no library building. Gradually Dorothy realizes that she can still be a librarian, without a building, and the town bands together to finance a bookmobile. Susan Condie Lamb illustrated this one and I love the fact that her finely wrought pictures really bring out the details of Miss Dorothy's story, such as the winding country roads and the tractor pulling the bookmobile out of the mud. This is unquestionably a biography not only of Miss Dorothy but of the town that she supported through her bookmobile. A great pairing for this would be Sarah Stewart's The Library, about booklover Elizabeth Brown.

If you have a bookmobile in your area, take a moment to check out their services, or to show some appreciation for their hardworking staff. When you consider the influence books have on the course of even one child's future, it's pretty obvious that the bookmobile can be a vital part of any community, no matter how remote.


Ali B said...

The small town where I grew up had a wonderful bookmobile. My mom drove it for a number of years. I didn't have to use it - I was a townie.

mary kinser said...

Love that, Ali! Bookmobiles are truly magical, I think.