By Jenni Wilke
For The Beachcomber
The Vashon Reads Bookmobile made its debut at the Strawberry Festival. Only eleven feet long and five feet wide, and branded with a Kawaii-inspired logo, the vehicle was a crowd favorite all weekend.
People loved hearing about how board president, Jen Salisbury, found the retired fire truck from Japan and thought it would be a perfect fit for a bookmobile. After showing it to some early supporters, she was surprised to discover they went and bought it for the organization that very day.
Vashon Reads is one of the island’s newest non-profit organizations. Inspired by her experience as the Reading Specialist at Chautauqua, Jen Salisbury has been putting pieces together all year to get the organization off the ground.
“As I worked with students in the reading program, it became clear that not all of them have access to books at home,” she said. “Visiting the library and shopping at bookstores is not part of their regular routines.”
After tracking the success of the school’s home-based summer intervention programs and book distribution during remote learning, Salisbury determined a bookmobile could fill that gap for many students.
With the vehicle ready, a board formed, and 501c3 paperwork filed, the next step for Vashon Reads is raising funds to purchase books. The organization would like to have the newest titles in sturdy library bindings ready to be distributed by the end of the summer. Information about the bookmobile’s schedule will be available in several places online and delivered by email.
Strawberry Festival goers contributed almost $500 to the cause throughout the weekend, donating cash at the booth or using a QR code to visit the donation page on the group’s website.
Salisbury was encouraged by the response.
“To see our vision come to reality this weekend was incredible. As soon as we parked from the parade there were children waiting to start reading books,” she said. “People stopped to tell us stories of what bookmobiles have meant to them, offered ideas and support, and shared in the excitement of the impact we’ll have.”
Once a bookmobile route is established, Vashon Reads has other goals to promote literacy on the island, including organizing and training volunteers to read with students and providing tips and coaching for families to develop reading routines in the home. Developing a habit and love of reading can do more than just increase a student’s academic success. Researchers have found that readers are more likely to find satisfying careers, express empathy for others, and be engaged in their communities.
To learn more about Vashon Reads, visit vashonreads.org, or find Vashon Reads on Facebook and Instagram.