I asked the elementary school kids I visit each week if they knew what a book mobile was. A second grader said sure, and pointed to one hanging from the ceiling in one corner of their classroom. I realized then that children today may not know the rich history behind the book mobile.
In 1887, Mrs. C. P. Barnes of Louisville, Kentucky created the Traveling Book Project for a local reading group called the Monday Afternoon Club. Club members in towns and villages who had no access to a library would receive books in wooden crates for their reading pleasure. Once read, the books would then be shipped back to Mrs. Barnes for redistribution.
Soon, other people around the country thought of ways to put books into the hands of children everywhere. The era of the Book Mobile was born. Throughout the year lucky children could now line up when the book mobile came to town and be able to select a book of their very own to read. Many times this was the only way a child could discover the magical worlds created by books.
There will always be a need for the book mobile program. Some places simply don't have the access to public libraries, and sometimes the people who live in these places don't have a car to get to a library even if there was one available.
But I am finding that the human spirit can never be held down for long. People always seem to find a way around obstacles in their path between themselves and their books.
With the federal funding being pulled from the Reading Is Fundamental program, there is an increased risk that many children may no longer have access to books. Encouraged by others still willing to make books available to readers of all ages, I helped create the Reading For Kicks program at my TaeKwonDo school. For the elementary schools I visit, those children will no longer have to worry about whether they will still receive free books each year. It is a program near and dear to my heart as I share my love for books with others.
Book mobiles have come a long way since Mrs. Barnes' time, and I think she would be amazed by today's way of delivering books. I'm not sure if she originated the idea of the book mobile but she certainly had the passion and the initiative to go where others had not gone before.
Even in this digital age readers can find access to the internet down on the corner when the book mobile pulls into town. No matter the method, the link between a child and their books will never be broken. And as for the book mobile hanging in that one classroom? Maybe they need to be a little more creative...