Vernon Bookmobile reaching summer readers town-wide

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Aug. 9, 2013
Olivia, 10, picks out a couple of books to read from the Bookmobile, at its stop at Valley Falls Park on Aug. 8. Photos by Steve Smith.
Olivia, 10, picks out a couple of books to read from the Bookmobile, at its stop at Valley Falls Park on Aug. 8. Photos by Steve Smith.

The “library on wheels” known as the Bookmobile has been having a great summer in its third year of bringing books to the children of Vernon. What started in the summer of 2011 as a short route hitting neighborhoods in the Rockville area has now become a two-day-per-week tour of several locations throughout Vernon, including many of the Vernon Parks and Recreation camps and locations that offer the Summer Lunch Program.

Angie Garabedian – the Bookmobile's driver – said she has enjoyed her role for years, and especially likes seeing the faces of kids when the bus arrives.

“They are so excited,” she said. “They are often waiting in line, with books in hand. Some even ask if they can donate some of their books. It's becoming more and more popular. There is a tremendous volume of books going out. We have kids coming on with their parents requesting certain books.”

Participation has been great, volunteers said, adding that on a typical day's route, about 200 books are signed out.

Ann Scharin – the Bookmobile coordinator – said the Bookmobile has reached something of a “saturation point,” where it is getting books in the hands of about as many children as it could be.

“We feel like we're maxing out at those locations,” Scharin said. “We're glad to be at the parks and lunch locations. That's a very important component. When we pull up at Talcott Park [for example], kids line up on the hill there. It's one of our best locations.”

Scharin added that grants from Key Hyundai and the Rockville Bank Foundation have helped the Bookmobile keep running.

The Bookmobile has received a lot of book donations, and has expanded its offerings to include books for teens and adults, and sometimes gives out books without expecting to get them back, including several hundred that were handed out at the National Night Out event in Rockville on Aug. 6.

Volunteer Suzanne Foley said the Bookmobile gave out about 150 books at the National Night Out, but picked up about eight more boxes of books the next morning.

Beth Halvorsen, a fifth-grade teacher at Northeast School, was volunteering at the check-out desk on Aug. 8. She said there is a great variety of books available this year, leading to the Bookmobile becoming “cooler” amongst older kids.

“It's kind of cool that kids going into sixth grade are into it,” Halvorsen said.

Garabedian agreed that the tie-in with the parks' camps and the summer lunch program have been key, and the counselors also grab books for themselves.

“I've never seen such happy camp counselors,” Garabedian said.

Valley Falls Camp counselors Nate Zielinski and Jenn Lippman said that the camp now has a 20-minute reading time after the Bookmobile's visit.

“It's the best part of our day,” Zielinski said, adding that the camp has its own supply of books, but the kids can go through them quickly, so the Bookmobile puts some fresh books in their hands.

Valley Falls camper Evan, 7, said he took out a “Star Wars” book, even though he “barely even watches ‘Star Wars.’”

Scharin said the future of the Bookmobile will not likely expand the number of locations next year, but could possibly make some adjustments.

“That could always change, but we're pretty good where it is now, with the amount of teachers and volunteers that we have,” Scharin said, adding that she has received feedback from schools that the program is working, but that data is hard to measure.

“There are other summer reading programs, too,” she said. “We can't actually say the reading scores went up, but everybody's saying, 'Yes, it is making a difference.' I think maybe this year, we'll be able to zero in on whether there is an actual increase in the scores, but we can't claim that [yet].”

Donations are always welcome, and can be made by contacting Ann Scharin at, at 860-870-6000, ext. 112, or by catching the Bookmobile at one of its stops.

The Bookmobile makes its last round of stops on Aug. 22, but books borrowed on that day can be returned at Vernon schools.

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