'Books on bus' initiative to help grow literacy

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Todd Elementary School ESL teacher and before-and-after school programming Coordinator Mary Ellen Fuentes is leading up an effort to get books on school buses for Todd students.

BELOIT - Soon Todd Elementary School children will be reading books on the bus thanks to the efforts of ESL teacher and before-and-after-school programming Coordinator Mary Ellen Fuentes.

Fuentes has rounded up tote bags and books from the Beloit Literacy for Life Initiative to be stowed behind the bus driver's seat. When kids get on the bus, the driver can offer them an array of books and when they are getting off they can slide it back in the tote bag.

"We have to look at ways to engage kids and get them involved with books," Fuentes said. "We are going to give it a try. We are going to give kids an opportunity to read."

Books will be on all nine buses at Todd by Nov. 1. If the pilot project goes well, Fuentes hopes to expand it to all elementary schools in the district by enlisting volunteers at each school site.

Each bus would have a bag containing at least 20 to 25 books and the bags will be rotated among the nine buses.

Fuentes said she read a Facebook post about another school offering books on the bus. With Todd having 185 students spending time on nine buses, Fuentes thought it would be a great fit.

Fuentes, who rides the bus on the first weeks of school to teach kids about bus behavior expectations, began researching the best way to store the books.

She rounded tote bags with the Beloit Literacy for Life Logo and filled them with books donated by the organization.

Beloit's Literacy for Life Initiative was launched in March 2018, a joint effort between the Stateline Community Foundation (SCF), the School District of Beloit (SDB) and other stakeholders. The aim was for early exposure to literacy to get kids on the same playing field as their more socioeconomically advantaged peers in terms of vocabulary and school readiness.

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