Rotary Revs-up Books on Wheels Deliveries

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Everyone is selecting books. (Courtesy Diane Bonica)

Wonderful books have been in storage for almost a year as the pandemic stymied the delivery of reading materials to Tualatin residents. Free stories and informational text were sitting idle on shelves, while the Books on Wheels program was sidelined. 

Now, however, thanks to the Tualatin Rotary Club, Books on Wheels is back on the road. Baskets of books recently made their way to Tualatin Elementary School and into the hands of students. “Pete the Cat,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and tons of Disney Princesses delighted the waiting readers. Dinosaur books, National Geographic animal texts and tons of easy readers found new homes. Distribution took place near the Tualatin Elementary School playground during summer lunchtime. It was a vacation learning opportunity that brought smiles and skills. 

Books on Wheels was founded at Deer Creek Elementary School in Tigard over twelve years ago. Becky Bard, the school’s reading specialist, was searching for a way to get books into kids homes during the summer months. She started delivering books to apartment complexes near the school. With the help of many staff members, she was able to promote reading and school connections during vacation time. 

Since then, summer deliveries have continued and expanded. Andrew Bonica, a teacher at Tualatin High School, has conducted book drives and deliveries all over the district. In the past five years over 7,500 books have been given to community members free of charge. Many families have been able to build at-home libraries thanks to Books on Wheels. The Rotary Club of Tualatin has been a great benefactor of the program. The club has provided funds to purchase new titles of high interest to school aged children. In addition, Rotary has helped expand the offerings to include books for middle and high school students and adults. 

Diane Bonica and two of her students, now in high school, helping with book deliveries. (Courtesy Diane Bonica)

A Books on Wheels volunteer relayed a story of her encounter with a reader at Atfalati Park. The young woman walked by the book display several times before stopping. She was apprehensive as she asked if anyone could select some books. The volunteer told her that everyone was welcome. Spying three volumes in the “Harry Potter” series, she smiled and then began to cry. She told the volunteer that she had always wanted to read them but could never afford the high price of the books. Both she and the volunteer were delighted that Harry had a new home. Tears turned to joy. 

A teacher volunteer once helped a young mom select books for her little toddler. As they filled her book bag, the mom then asked if there were any books for a fourth grade reader. The teacher asked her if the child was a boy or a girl, as there are many series for 10-year-olds. The mom said that the books were for herself. She had never advanced in reading and now that she was a mom, she wanted to improve her skills so she would be able to help her daughter. Growing readership is something everyone in Tualatin can be proud of. 

Why does our community need a program like Books on Wheels? We have a wonderful library in the heart of our city! Our library staff members are tireless in their efforts to reach every reader. Yet, many families do not access this resource. They may have lost book fines that prevent them from checking out new books or they often do not have transportation to get to the library. Books on Wheels solves both issues. The books are free and they travel to where the readers play, eat or live.  

Books on Wheels will be popping up all over town this summer. Plans are underway to bring books to a summer concert and community events. Look for the white book flag and the blanket filled with laundry baskets of books. You may find a book title or ten that make your summer reading a delightful treat. 

If you are interested in the Books on Wheels Program or about joining The Tualatin Rotary Club, go to www.tualatinrotary.org and someone in the club will be more than happy to chat with you.