Chesney Champion Bookmobile: Bringing books to students' doorsteps

- It may be summer break, but fifth-grade teacher Kara Cowdrick is still hard at work. The Chesney Elementary School teacher and her band of volunteers are packing up supplies for a very special delivery.

It's called the Chesney Champion Bookmobile. Every Wednesday this summer, the bookmobile goes to two apartment complexes near the Duluth school and sets up shop for about 45 minutes.

"We bring books to our students each week and we give them the option to check out between 2 - 5 books," Kara says.

Kara says every year she's watched students return to school from summer break and their reading levels have dropped, a lot.

"We call it the summer slide, says Kara. "And there's as lot of research that explains why and that it does really exist."

Determined to reverse the slide, Kara came up with the idea of a bookmobile. So, she wrote a proposal and won a $3,500 grant from the Atlanta Families' Award for Excellence in Education.

And with that, Kara bought fourteen hundred books, fairy tales to biographies, and is bringing this rolling library to the students' doorsteps. One student, Kimberly Mejia, says her goal is to read at the fifth-grade level, and she plans on taking out a lot of books.

"And they're reading with their family, they're reading with their big sister and big brothers and they're reading for fun, which is what it's all about," says Kara.

And in any language, the bookmobile is building bridges.

"And it just really brings our community together and that's what it's all about," says Kara. " We can't help our kids alone, we need to think about how to support our students beyond our four classroom walls and beyond our school walls."

And the community has jumped in. Last year Kara ran the bookmobile out of her mom's car. This year Rick Case Duluth, a local dealership, donated the use of their van and a driver to boot.

"I'm having the best time," says property manager Mary Plemmons. "Anytime we can see smiling kids it's a great day,"

And what started out small now draws about one hundred kids every week, eager to soak up some prizes, popsicles, and an extra dose of knowledge.

"I'm interested in books right now cause I really want to pass fourth grade," says nine year old Hannah Hernandez. " Cause I never thought I was going to make it."

"If we can provide our students with books to help them be literate and help them be the best readers they can be, today's readers are tomorrow's leaders," says Kara. "It's been truly amazing, I love it, it's a dream."

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