Employees of one Bryan school are working to help eliminate the “summer slide” students experience between school years by giving them easier access to books.
Wednesday kicked off this year’s Crockett Elementary School summer mobile library, setting up baskets of books at Timberlake Mobile Home Park, Saddlewood Apartments and in the Crockett playground.
“It’s just a great opportunity to stay connected with our students and families in the summer,” Crockett Principal Debi Ehrhardt said. “We work really hard to have our students make as much academic success as we can during the school year, and to know that they may not have access to something as simple as books and we have a way to fill that need, it’s really awesome.”
The mobile library will continue each Wednesday throughout the summer, with Crockett first-grade teacher Polly Wilson setting up at each of the three locations through Aug. 1.
When a student checks out a book, they just bring it back the next week and exchange it for another book to read.
“The summer slide is there. At least if they have books in the house, maybe they’ll pick them up rather than the video [games],” Wilson said, “so our goal is just to get books in their hands.”
This is the second year Chaqueterria Sweed brought her children to pick out books from the library.
“I think it’s very exciting, because my kids — they’re excited about it,” she said. “And I think it’s a great thing over the summer [that] the kids actually can come out and check out books. Sometimes with me working, it’s hard to go to the public library to actually check out a book, so I think this is very helpful throughout the summer. It’s right here at home. It’s convenient. The kids are learning throughout the summer because over the summer, sometimes they forget things.”
Each of her sons found books they wanted to read during the week. Trae, 9, looks for books on the three S’s — snakes, soccer and spiders — but enjoys the pictures in the books he reads. His favorite part about the mobile library, he said, is that he is able to read during the summer break.
Will, 8, just enjoys reading. Sweed added he also will copy down the stories and add his own drawings in his pursuit to become an author.
“I just love to know when they go on they know the importance of more reading instead of watching TV, because a lot of kids, they just want to watch TV and not read,” she said.
It was the opportunity to allow children to select reading as a summer activity that led Wilson to establish the program after seeing another district’s version.
“I just thought it’d be a great idea for us to do at Crockett, because sometimes our kids don’t have books in their homes, so this would be a way for us to get books to them,” she said.
What started five years ago with some of the school’s leftover parent involvement money and one set of books has grown to include multiple tubs of books for each elementary grade level.
In addition to donations, Wilson wrote grants to different organizations, including retired teachers, the Rotary Club and the BISD Education Foundation.
“We’ve doubled the number of books that we had last year,” she said.
This summer also saw the number of stops each week expand to include the elementary school, which is hosting summer school for the first year.
Ehrhardt’s goal for the students is for them to stay motivated and excited to continue reading by offering a variety of books at each grade level and encouraging the students to select books that interest them.
“There’s something special about the outdoor library,” she said, adding they also often have ice pops.
Wilson and Gary Blazek, a retired BISD teacher, spent about 40 hours getting everything ready to open the mobile library Wednesday.
“It’s just been like another tub of books, another box of books. It’s a great thing,” she said. “We’ve just been really excited about it, and it’s grown so much. We’re very, very pleased with how it’s turning out. … It’s just so worth every ounce of time we put into it.”
Many of the families, she added, return to participate in the program year after year.
“It’s an amazing thing to have,” Naiaisa Foster said.
Nyquiaisa Foster described reading as “awesome” because it allows her to learn new things.
“I’m glad they do this, because some people don’t know how to read. They learn new things, and it helps teach them how to do it,” she said, noting its importance as an essential skill. “You have to know how to read.”
Although she has not started school yet, Raylon Williams was excited to start reading books about Paw Patrol, SpongeBob and Clifford the Big Red Dog and seeing all the pictures.
Ehrhardt’s favorite part about the program is being able to see the students and families outside of school, catch up with former students and meet new students.
The library supports students throughout BISD, but especially those attending Crockett Elementary.
And in short, Ehrhardt said, “It is fun.”
Each Wednesday through Aug. 1, except July 4:
Timberlake Mobile Home Park: 11-11:50 a.m.
Saddlewood Apartments: 12-12:40 a.m.
Crockett Elementary Playground: 12:45-1:30 a.m.