Sharon initiated the idea for The Free Book Bus and is delighted to direct the nonprofit. She has collected children's books for years. Some of her favorites are old Grimm's Fairy Tales, the Dorrie the Little Witch series by Patricia Coombs, anything by Mo Willems, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Sharon has worked in the newspaper and publishing industries, and as an ESL tutor.
Derrick is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the UVA School of Engineering. Derrick does much of the mechanical work on the bus, built the interior shelves and loves driving the bus to events. Some of his favorite childhood books were Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry, War of The Worlds, and other science fiction.
Derrick and Sharon have two college-age sons who enjoy helping out on the occasional bus stop when they are home from school.
Why is it important to give books to people who otherwise may not have access to or money to spend on books?
The first mission of The Free Book Bus is to enable all children and teens to have a home library. I think libraries are essential, but not everyone has a working vehicle to get to the library or access to a bookmobile stop. Having a home library not only allows kids to have that encapsulated knowledge in their homes, it also allows them to have a book collection. For those who can't access and/or afford them, we'd like to be able to fill that gap. I'd also like The Free Book Bus to be a special place that kids find at least a little magical. The book selection will change constantly and I hope it will be a bit like a treasure hunt. The second mission of the bus is reading encouragement - to share books with kids who may be able to access and/or afford them, but would still like to visit the bus.
How did this idea come to mind?
I was at a sort of personal crossroads - one child in his first year of college, and the other a junior in high school, and it was time for me to go back to full-time work. The idea for the bus evolved during my job search - and I thought a lot about "What do I love?" and "What do I want to do?" and the answer kept coming back to children's books, which I have collected for years. Once the idea of a bus came to mind (and I'm certainly not the only person to think of this) and I realized, after researching, that there wasn't one in this area, it sort of snowballed from there.
With younger and younger kids using digital devices do you worry about the book disappearing? What would be lost if that happened?
I don't really worry about books disappearing. Too many people love books and are still passing that love on to their kids. I do think it's changing - certainly people are reading bedtime stories on iPads, etc., which is of course still reading, but it's not the same as a well-loved book.
Do kids still get excited about books?
In my experience, yes! All of the kids who have visited the bus so far have been pretty excited, even older kids. Especially if you encourage them to read what they want. I was always of the philosophy that whatever my boys wanted to read was fine. If that meant a steady diet of comics, or the Lego catalog, I was OK with that. Kids should be able to read what they love without worrying too much about the "quality" of the reading. Parents can always sneak a few classics in there at bedtime if it gets too imbalanced :)
Is there a difference in holding a physical book and reading on an iPad or Kindle?
Yes, just like new and old houses feel different. A book has history and (I think) contains some of the personality/energy of its owners and former times being read. It FEELS different to hold a book, especially an old one, than it does to hold a Kindle. I have a Kindle and love it for instant gratification and travel. And, it's never going to be as special as the books I read my boys at bedtime, or the copies of Harry Potter my boys first read, or the Calvin and Hobbes books they learned to read with.
What happens when a parent reads to a child?
They create a little personal world that they get to live in together. It's also (especially for lap readers) a time of quiet and physical contact. Some of my best memories of my boys being little are of the story time years, when I got to have them in my lap and read to them.
What happens when a child reads for themselves?
They create a world that they get to inhabit and build at will in their mind. When they reread the book, they get to visit the creation and the characters as they imagined them. There's great comfort in opening a favorite book and finding everyone right where you left them.
What role does storytelling play in our society?
Storytelling is even more magical than it was before, due to the internet. Reading short "bites" online is not the same as reading an amazing story or hearing one told. The best storytellers have the ability to completely take you out of your daily life and into the story.
What’s different about a movie story vs. a book?
Movies are great in their own way. But, they are presented to you whole. Reading a book allows you to be part of the creation of the story - you can imagine the characters in your own way. Most people have had the experience of reading the book, and then seeing the movie, and then the "movie people" replace the people you had originally imagined.
What are some of your earliest memories of books?
My mom and grandmother are/were both librarians. I remember building pillow forts with my brother in my grandmother's library (Park School in Baltimore). I remember sitting on our front porch in Afton, before I could read, looking at the words on a page and wondering what it would be like to read. Later, after I had read the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, I spent a lot of time in the woods trying to find an entrance to Narnia :) I especially loved our tiny copy of The Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown.
The Free Book Bus