Autumn Powel, 8, sifts through books in search of a good read.… (Sara Lewkowicz, Special…)
Any kid can have a bookmobile come through his or her neighborhood. But in Annapolis, kids last month were treated to what Tyler Heights Elementary School staff called a bookmobile/bookmocycle — a Honda Accord with a trunk full of children's books that was led by a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
It is no wonder that a group led by Tyler Heights librarian Paula Borinsky Hendry and second-grade teacher Matt Schlegel gave away about 1,000 books to Annapolis-area youngsters during July. Schlegel got kids' attention by roaring through their neighborhoods on his Harley. As children approached to check out the literary convoy, Hendry gave each of them two books, some donated, some brand new.
The move is part of Hendry's efforts to make sure that Annapolis-area children not only develop reading skills at an early age but continue to pick up books during the busy summer months. She intends to follow the summer reading initiative with what she calls Parent/Toddler University.
Parents of children ages 2-4 can bring them to Tyler Heights once a month during the fall for a program of story time, poetry, song and crafts.
"We're doing this to encourage early literacy," said Hendry, who has served as a librarian at Tyler Heights the past eight years, after 20 years of teaching sciences in Anne Arundel and Baltimore county schools. "The Parent/Toddler University is similar to a library story time, but we thought some parents might be more comfortable coming to the school."
Hendry hopes that both ventures help area children foster a joy for reading that will last a lifetime.
"The critical thing is that kids are ready at age 5," Hendry added. "That's where many children are behind. They don't know the alphabet. They don't know the letter sounds. They don't know how to hold a book. And they're not interested in reading, because they haven't had those literacy experiences. We're working so hard, but we're sometimes playing catch-up."
Not during this summer. Despite temperatures that hovered near 100 last month, scores of children in Annapolis have flocked to the makeshift convoy as if it were an ice cream truck. Hendry and Schlegel gave out calendars in advance to let children know about the routine stops, and some children emerged from their homes as soon as the bookmobile entered their blocks.
Some could be seen peeking through curtains as the bookmobile pulled up near their homes.
Other children were driven to the bookmobile and motorcycle stops by parents or grandparents. They crowded the back of Hendry's car and gazed over the array of works that were arranged for their age groups.
Lexus Henson, 13, of Annapolis took home a book from the Goosebumps series. "I like mystery books," she said. "They keep you guessing."
Brett Miller, 12, of Annapolis took away the Scholastic animated novel "Bone." He said he reads throughout the summer because "you don't want to forget what you learned this summer, because then if don't remember it next year, it's hard. And it keeps your mind still going and it's fun to read."
Leslie Zepeda, 6, of Annapolis came away with books in English and Spanish.
"I like reading a lot of books," said Leslie, holding the Scholastic animated book, "Froggy Va a la Escuela" ("Froggy Goes to School").
Hendry said that many of the books were donated, but she purchased some with donations from local merchants, and a few of her friends volunteered to help with the giveaways. They distributed more books during a summer camp at Tyler Heights this past week.
"We've gotten about 100 kids a week, and we only have about 400 kids at our school," said Schlegel, who sports his colorful arm tattoos while riding his Harley-Davidson. "The awesome thing is that there has been interest from media specialists of other schools, too."
Hendry said that she hopes to have a similar response with the fall reading venture.
"There are no kids who don't like books," she added. "Just having books in the home makes a huge difference."