Book Buses Drive Literacy

Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation’s (GELF) Book Bus program aims to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee and to prevent summer learning loss in students.In partnership with local school systems, GELF launched its Book Bus program in 2018 to create mobile libraries that provide children and families with access to high-quality resources.
Join us in celebrating National Bookmobile Day on April 22, 2020 by sharing this blog on social media and in your community!
Please tag us @GovEarlyLiteracyTN and use the hashtags #GELFBookBus #DrivingLiteracyTN #GovEarlyLiteracyTN when sharing your posts. 

The Driving Forces Behind Our Book Bus Program…

The driving forces behind our Book Bus program are local school districts, community partners and volunteers. Partnering school districts retrofit decommissioned school buses with shelving and seating to house books, reading activities and literacy resources. The bus programs partner with maintenance staff, local food programs, transportation and technology departments and travel to high poverty neighborhoods over the summer, emphasizing the importance of early literacy and providing continued access to books and reading material to families and children. School administrators, teachers and volunteers help with the wrap design, layout and staffing of the Book Buses as they visit neighborhoods during the summer months.

Communities support this program by donating funds, books and other resources to stock the Book Buses. As Jenifer Lingerfelt, Unicoi County Schools Elementary Supervisor says, “The Unicoi County ASPIRE Book Bus pulls at the heartstrings of our community and reveals the best in all of us.” She is proud to say that everyone layered their expertise, and as the Book Bus came together, it was touched by so many that it became representative of a team of people with specialized knowledge, skill, caring hearts and imagination!


Book Bus Stories…

Our Book Buses are filled with books, of course, but they also collect “stories” as teachers, children, parents and caregivers connect along the bus routes. Below are just a couple of stories we have heard about our Book Buses. Share yours with us!

  1. Post pics and videos on social media with a story of how our Book Bus program has made an impact on you and your community.
  2. Please tag us @GovEarlyLiteracyTN and use the hashtags #GELFBookBus #DrivingLiteracyTN #GovEarlyLiteracyTN when sharing your posts.

From a Teacher:

“During our first year traveling with the Book Bus, we had one stop that rarely had any people meet us. On the second week of our route, a little boy around 9 or 10 years old showed up on his bike to greet the bus. You could tell this bike was very well-loved and worn by him. I can’t remember how he heard about us, but he rode a pretty long way from his house to come to see us and get lunch. He LOVED ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ books, and we were able to quickly form a relationship. We ended up filling a trash bag of food for him, and our bus driver figured out a way to attach the bag to his bike. A stop that originally was a bust, became one of my favorites, because of that little boy. It made it very well worth it!” -Teacher with ASPIRE Book Bus in Unicoi County

From an Elementary Supervisor:

“The ASPIRE Book Bus is dear to my heart. One day a family visited the bus, and a little girl began reading aloud from a book.  When she saw I was taking a photo, she told me that she couldn’t read. I was surprised and told her that she was reading very nicely. She told me she could not read, and her sister could only check out books with a few words. My heart was overwhelmed at seeing a child, obviously reading a rather large book at the time, but not seeing herself as a reader. Her mom began to tell me about an experience she had when she was younger that had stifled her. The mother was open about the fact she wished she had advocated for her child more than she had and was so happy to bring her to the bus to encourage all of her children to read. I just listened that day, but I worked that stop every Thursday for the rest of the summer, and this family visited every week. Each week when the little girl would visit, we were intentional to acknowledge new books she was enjoying and let her know, in fact, she was a wonderful, growing reader (like all of us were). As we watched her grow in confidence, her mom grew in confidence, too! I could see both of them relax and let go of that unfair weight they were both carrying. It was such a special summer, connecting with a family and being a part of their growth as readers. In my present job, I oversee curriculum and instruction. It’s a vital role I cherish, but it’s moments like this that drew me to teaching. ASPIRE is one way I continue to connect to my purpose. Book buses are as important to those who work on them as it is to those who visit. ” 
-Jenifer Lingerfelt, Unicoi County Schools Elementary Supervisor

More About GELF’s Book Bus Program…

Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) works to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee by supporting and sustaining early literacy programs for children statewide, including Dolly Parton’s Imagination, Storybook Trails, Book Buses, Caregiver Engagement and K-3rd Grade Summer Reading. Since 2004, GELF has sustained Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program statewide in Tennessee, funding half of the cost of books mailed across the state and providing volunteer training for affiliate programs in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. In July 2018, GELF launched its Book Bus program, in partnership with local school systems, to create mobile libraries that provide children and families with access to high-quality resources. With support from the Appalachian Regional Commission, GELF has provided seven school systems with “seed funding” to bring a Book Bus to their community. Book Buses foster early literacy and work to prevent summer learning loss in students. 


GELF’s Book Bus program now includes seven buses in East Tennessee. During the summers of 2018 and 2019, GELF’s Book Buses traveled 1,180+ hours, distributing 9,300+ books to children and families.  GELF hopes to expand the Book Bus program to serve more Tennessee communities.


Without exposure to rich texts throughout the summer, many students fall behind academically. Also known as the “Summer Slide,” students can have the tendency to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. The Book Bus program works to prevent the “Summer Slide” in students and help Tennessee meet its literacy goal of 75 percent of third grade students reading proficiently by 2025.


Here is a little bit more about the Book Bus program in each participating county…

To invest in our efforts to strengthen early literacy and build lifelong learners in Tennessee