Little Red Reading Bus motoring to West Fargo

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While kids may not be going to reading classes over the summer, it doesn't mean the books can't come to them.

A collaborative effort among the West Fargo School District, city, Park District, West Fargo Library and West Fargo Educational Foundation hopes to have the "The Little Red Riding Bus" motoring around town by June.

Stephanie Shea, Little Red Reading Bus project manager and instructional coach/advanced mentor at Eastwood Elementary School, has been working to get the project. She expects it to promote early literacy for preschoolers and kindergartners, and add to the reading development of first- through fifth-graders.

Shea, who has served on the West Fargo Library Board, said she found that not all kids are able to visit the library during the summer months to keep their reading levels advancing.

"We don't want our kids to go dormant over the summer months, so we want to bring the books to them," she said.

The West Fargo School Board approved selling a smaller decommissioned school bus to the project for $2,500 on Jan. 22. It will be painted "RED," an acronym for Read Every Day.

"Some of our children don't have access to books or transportation to a library," Superintendent David Flowers said. "This is modeled after a very successful program in Grand Forks."

School District Business Manager Mark Lemer said $2,500 is about what the district earns when it tries to resell its used buses.

Shea said the bus will have regular routes Monday through Friday. The routes will likely be centered around West Fargo parks, where the bus will stop and books will be brought out as well as tables and chairs for kids to read.

"They can check books out or just sit and read as recreation," Shea said.

The bus will be filled with books that children can check out and return, much like a mobile library.

"The only difference is kids won't go inside," Shea said.

About $55,000 is needed to get the program up and running, which includes purchasing the bus, paint and materials. While the nonprofit group is seeking monetary donations, in-kind donations are also helpful. Those who donate more than $2,000 will get their business logo printed on the back of the bus, Shea said.

Officials expect to start with about 10,000 books inside the bus.

The bus will be primarily used in June, July and August when school is not in session, but may attend special events throughout West Fargo. Throughout the summer, it will be driven and manned by volunteers. While project contributors will volunteer their time, members of the public are welcome to volunteer for the Little Red Riding Bus, including high school students, seniors and parents.

To help reach the fundraising goals, the Little Red Riding Bus will be part of Giving Hearts Day on Feb. 8. To donate matched funds to the project visit www.impactgiveback.org.

For more information or for other ways to donate to the project, email sshea@west-fargo.k12.nd.us or visit the West Fargo Educational Foundation at www.westfargofoundation.com.