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Words on Wheels: BookWagon makes reading fun for children

“This is sort of an introduction to all of the magic that happens at the library,” said Meridith Wulff, the Regional Youth Specialist for First Regional Library.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Reading is fundamental, and the Words on Wheels BookWagon in North Mississippi wants to make sure it’s fun for kids as well.

“This is sort of an introduction to all of the magic that happens at the library,” said Meridith Wulff, the Regional Youth Specialist for First Regional Library.

The BookWagon is a free resource serving DeSoto, Tate, Tunica, Panola, and Lafayette Counties.

“The BookWagon is about bringing the library to where kids are in our most rural communities,” said Wulff. “It is literally a library on a bus, and it is full of wonderful things that support early learning.”

Kids get excited when they see the 1996 Bluebird Bus full of books.

“They see all the books and they’re so excited. They love to read,” said Brenda Wright, owner of Heavenly Hearts Learning Center.

The wagon is focused on early childhood literacy, ages between birth and five, and serves 15 to 18 childcare centers each school year. It visits every childcare center they serve about once a month and is on the road 3 to 4 days a week.

“The BookWagon partners with First Regional Library’s 14 branches. To make sure that all of the children in our community, all of our youngest children, receive high quality, free early literacy library services,” said Wulff.

They deliver a bag of resources for the teachers at each childcare center for the coming month. They have books, puppets, story time kits, musical instruments, and resources for teachers and caregivers.

Not only are there resources for teachers. Students can check out books as well, which stay at the childcare centers until the bus returns and the books are returned.

“They choose books. They check them out just like at a library. So, they’re getting, in some cases, they’re very first or maybe only library experience,” said Wulff. “There’s a lot going on in this little space and I think when kids and their caregivers come on board, they feel it and it’s part of the energy that takes place during story time.”

“She makes it fun for all the kids. Because she does different things. She does the songs, and she does reading. And then they like looking at the books and checking the books out,” said Wright. “We want to make sure that we build the foundation. And that is our motto, building a solid foundation for the future. And it all starts with reading.”

“It’s not just about what happens on the book wagon. It’s about encouraging them on that path to visit their local branch. And really get familiar with all the resources available for free to them with a library card,” said Wulff. “We’re really fortunate to be able to do the work that we do out of the BookWagon because of generous funding from the Community Foundation of North Mississippi as well as the communities that we serve, communities in DeSoto County Panola, Tate, Tunica and Lafayette County. So, this work would not be possible without that financial support.”

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