Bringing books to the children

A big white truck filled with books has been making the rounds in Webster City this summer, offering area children an opportunity to continue their reading progress during the school break.

Diane Bahrenfuss has been bringing her Bookmobile, a converted truck painted with a brightly colored book mural, to apartment complexes, mobile home parks and other areas where children might not be able to safely walk or bike to the Kendall Young Library. Last summer, she set up at the summer lunch program held at the middle school.

But this year she decided to go out into the community to those children who may be not be able visit the local library because of the distance. On Thursday, she wheeled the truck into the parking lot at Stoneridge Apartments just north of the Hamilton County Courthouse.

“I started trying to think where a lot of kids might be – those far away from the library, so I could bring the books to them,” she said.

This is the second summer for the bookmobile, according to Bahrenfuss, who got the idea from the Ames Public Library. She said the whole idea was to reach out to the community to promote literacy in Webster City. Bahrenfuss, who teaches third grade at Sunset Heights Elementary School, said summer can be a hard time for kids to keep reading.

“And it’s so very important,” she said, adding, “Accessibility and self-selection of books is really valuable.”

The response to the bookmobile has been very positive, she said. Children line up when they see her pull into the parking lot. She has a set of wooden steps she places at the back of the bookmobile, so even the littlest children can climb in and find a good book.

“They love to visit the bookmobile. I always have a big crowd here. I love how they talk to each other about books and recommend books to read,” she said.

Bahrenfuss explained that the service is free to the children and families and is basically a traveling lending library. Children check out books and return them the next time she stops at their location. The bookmobile has an ever-changing array of books to loan out between the donations coming in and the books that are circulated to the young readers.

Donations are what have filled the bookmobile’s shelves, Bahrenfuss said. The Kendall Young Library donated books after its Friends of the Library Book Sale and many individuals have also contributed children’s books.

“This community has been very generous. Lots and lots of people have donated,” she said.

Most of the students visiting the book mobile are middle school age and younger, she said. On this particular day, there was even a three-year-old picking out couple books to take home.

The bookmobile started through the support of the Webster City Foundation and she also credits Tim Turner, Brad Van Deer and Jake Weinztel along with her daughter Mari Kait Keane with helping to paint the truck.

With the approach of the new school year, this week is the last week for the bookmobile for this summer. But Bahrenfuss said she plans to be back next summer.

“Absolutely, next summer I’ll be back,” she said.

Those wishing to donate books to the bookmobile can contact Bahrenfuss through Sunset Heights school, 832-9245.