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Moonshot Moment Bookmobile on the move

Much like the crowd drawn out by the music from the neighborhood ice cream truck, children clamored for their chance to step into the Moonshot Moment Bookmobile as it rolled into the Dasie Hope Center for its first stop this summer.

Now in its third year of delivering literacy opportunities to where they’re needed most, The Learning Alliance Mobile Library made stops in Fellsmere, Gifford, Oslo and Wabasso each week to deliver the written word to hundreds of children.

Summer days should be filled with water balloon fights, days at the beach, melting popsicles and … reading. For many children, the last day of school means they won't have access to books until they return to school in August.

It is estimated that the summer slide (loss of learning during the summer months) accounts for as much as 85 percent of the reading achievement gap between lower income students and their middle- and upper-income peers.

To help combat the summer slide, The Learning Alliance and the School District of Indian River County have continued their partnership to ensure 90 percent of Indian River County children are reading on grade level by the third grade.

You know that summer has officially arrived when the Moonshot Moment Bookmobile rolls up. Within the end of the first week of school, the TLA Moonshot Bookmobile began making its summer rounds with their first stop at the Dasie Hope Center.

Children attending Dasie Hope’s nonprofit summer camp visited the bookmobile to select books they wanted to read for the sheer pleasure of reading. Some spotted favorites and snapped them right up, while others weighed their options carefully, wanting to pick the perfect book.

The shelves were stocked with nearly 1,000 donated books ranging in reading level from pre-school through high school. There were even adult-level books and magazines. All genres were covered, and books ran the gamut from old standards – Make Way for Ducklings, Flat Stanley and The Cay – to more recent tomes – Captain Underpants, Goosebumps and Harry Potter.

During the bookmobile’s travels the past two summers, The Learning Alliance has given away nearly 10,000 books, reaching more than 500 people each week.

To further promote literacy in the community, The Learning Alliance has partnered with the Fellsmere Exchange Club, Literacy Services and FACT to collect books and enable the Moonshot Moment Bookmobile to visit the Fellsmere area year round.

Another literacy partnership has evolved with local law enforcement, promoting reading through the annual “Book Em: A new take on getting booked by law enforcement.” Officers help get the “word” out in low-income neighborhoods, escorting the bookmobile on Moonshot Day of Service and including literacy on wheels at community law-enforcement events, with the next event scheduled for Sebastian’s police night out on October 23 and then the Book Em on November 9.

“It's important for children to have books in the home. The key for the summer bookmobile is that we want kids to have books they want to read for pleasure. It's not based on AR points or book level,” said Marie O'Brien, The Learning Alliance’s Manager of Digital Media and Moonshot Outreach, noting that studies show that in low-income neighborhoods only 1 in 300 kids have a book at home.

The children crowded into the bookmobile, anxiously searching for their books. One parent told O'Brien, “Thank you for doing this. I have never owned a book, and my kids have never owned a book. When you are worried about putting gas in the car or food on the table, you don’t spend money on books. But, I love the way a book feels and how it smells. This bookmobile is going to keep me and my kids busy all summer!”

“Growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, the bookmobile was an active summer resource that I fondly remember,” shared O'Brien. “I want our county’s kids to also remember how great it was to be able to have a bookmobile come to them, so that they can select a book and read simply for the joy of reading.”

After a great deal of thought, Devin, an 8-year-old rising 3rd-grader selected two books, one about weather and the other about Mark Twain. He was excited to take the books home, explaining “I don't have a lot of books at home.”

Omariah, a 9-year-old rising 4th-grader went for a popular favorite, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. “I think it's amazing that the bookmobile come here and let us pick books. It's too expensive to get books at the store.”

The Dasie Hope Center provides after-school tutoring for children ages 5 to 14 during the school year and seven weeks of summer camp from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The children receive a hot breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack in addition to educational and extracurricular activities.

“Everything we do is for the kids,” said Kimberly Wright, Dasie Hope Center assistant director. “If they weren't here these kids would probably be home, unsupervised, and not getting the education or exposure to activities.”

Most of the children at Dasie Hope don't have books at home, according to Wright. “It means a lot for these children to have access to these free books. We look forward to the bookmobile. The children take pride at picking out their own books.”

A recent study showed that in one U.S. middle-class community each child had access to 13 books while in a nearby low-income neighborhood, there was only one age-appropriate book per 300 kids.

Living in a book desert limits children's access to academic and socioeconomic opportunities. One study indicated that children without regular access to books score 60 percent lower on kindergarten-readiness tests.

The Moonshot Community is committed to stopping the summer slide by ensuring all children have access to reading material during the summer.

This year the bookmobile has literally “spread the word” to more students by visiting locations with more family traffic. By timing a stop at the Sonrise Villas in Fellsmere with the district's Mobile Café Bus, which provides free meals to children, an additional 125 children have the opportunity to select reading materials. Parents are grateful to The Learning Alliance for giving their children access to quality reading materials to help stop the summer slide.

The route has also been expanded and the bookmobile now ventures into the South County area with a stop at Oslo Middle School where 71 students attending the Feed the Lambs program, a free program that provides recreation, education and mentorship services for underprivileged children, to keep reading through the summer.

About The Learning Alliance:

At The Learning Alliance, our work is predicated on the question – What does it take to achieve 90% literacy by third grade such that we create literate, compassionate, creative citizens who will improve our world? The Learning Alliance is a catalyst for innovation and collaboration supporting the Moonshot Moment 90% literacy transformative goal by arming front-line educators, parents, and community leaders with the tools, knowledge, and support necessary for success. Through innovative, evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning, we empower teachers to transform children’s lives. Through partnerships with the School District of Indian River County, Indian River State College, community leaders and civic youth organizations in our community, we hope to create local solutions that can serve as a model for the nation.

For more information about The Learning Alliance, please visit www.thelearningalliance.org or call 877-548-READ (7323).