On a summer weekday, when the air is already hot and muggy by mid-morning, Clover schools employees Patty Cook and Garick Wilson sit in their air-conditioned van and drive.
They visit apartment complexes, schools, churches and other spots where children can be found on summer days, and they sit and wait. When a kid walks up to the van, they hop out and get to work.
Cook and Wilson are the drivers of the “Books on Wheels” program, and they’re there to deliver stories, snacks and smiles.
For the third summer in a row, the school district has paid for the van, which is full of books children can check out, take home and read – knowing they can catch up with the bus at another location or at the same spot the next week and exchange those books for more.
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“Some kids don’t have access to the schools or the library,” Cook said, so they take the books to them.
This year, for the first time, through community support and a grant from Walmart, the district also is giving bags of food to students in need. It’s an extension of the district’s “Back the Pack” program, which operates during the school year. The bags contain fruit snacks, peanut butter and other kid-friendly food items.
“It’s a great opportunity to help the kids in the community,” Wilson said. “This shows that Clover takes care of their own.”
The book van stops at many of the places that the York County Summer Feeding Program does, a program that gives free lunches to children each weekday during the summer.
In the parking lot at Lighthouse Ministries, La’Loni Ruff, 8, picks out a book from the “Magic Tree House” series. Armed with her book, a bag of food and a lollipop, La’Loni heads back to her house.
She said she’s not big on reading, but her teacher said they had to read over the summer.
“I like Jack and Annie,” she said, naming the hero brother/sister tandem in the “Magic Tree House” books.
Later, Cook and Wilson stopped the van at Griggs Road Elementary School, where students from elementary schools all over Clover are meeting for summer reading camps. Kerri Harvell brought her 6-year-old daughter, Micah Faile, to pick out some books.
Micah very diligently selected “The Fat Cat on the Mat” and two books featuring Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Micah reads all day and can’t get enough new books, Harvell said, and since they live just a mile up the road, the Books on Wheels stop was perfect for them.
Groups of students in the Griggs Road programs took turns coming out to peruse the selection. Catherine Dillon, who teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages students, called the Books on Wheels program “incredible” for her students and others across the district who don’t have access to books during the summer.
One of her students, rising fifth-grader Valeria Sifuentes, picked up an “Amelia Bedelia” book and a Pokemon book.
“It looks fun to read,” she said of the “Amelia Bedelia” book, leafing through it while waiting for classmates to finish their selections.
Clover’s Books on Wheels program will continue through the week of August 4.
Rachel Southmayd 803-329-4072