In 2004, Pat Kennedy and a group of fellow early childhood educators noticed the children in their community lacked access to books. As a result, 50% of the kids in Harrisonburg, Virginia were entering kindergarten reading at a very low literacy level. Pat and the others wanted to help. Their solution? Instead of bringing the students to the books, bring the books to the students.
Pat worked with the schools to determine which neighborhoods were in need and soon after, The Reading Road Show hit the ground running with a mobile literacy vehicle called “The Gus Bus.”
It’s a “library on wheels,” visiting communities in the city of Harrisonburg, Va. and Page County. Instructors spend time with the kids doing story time and after, a craft or activity that helps them better understand what they just read. Kids are also able to check out books and take them home to read with their families. All designed to better prepare students for school and, to make reading fun. The Gus Bus also works with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to provide food bags at each neighborhood stop. These bags help the kids and their family. Currently, the Gus Bus touches the lives of more than 450 children with two mobile literacy vehicles serving neighborhoods in the city of Harrisonburg, Va. and Page County.
On Giving Tuesday, November 27, the Gus Bus learned that it had been selected as one of the recipients of the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s True Inspiration Awards. As the Northeast Region winner, the program will receive a $75,000 grant to expand the program through more vehicles and serve a larger area.
Ashley Bellamy, the Chick-fil-A Operator that nominated The Gus Bus for the award, has a personal connection to the work they do. Before coming the Chick-fil-A, she was a special education teacher for five years. “Literacy and reading to children have always been pretty high on my list, so of course when I heard about the Gus Bus I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Bellamy said. “In some neighborhoods, both parents work and don’t have time to sit down and read to their kids, or they don’t have the means to access a library or book store. The Gus Bus goes into these communities and help truly foster a love of reading from an early age.”
Bellamy started working with The Gus Bus as soon as her Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in Harrisonburg and now, they’ve been partners for 13 years.
The Chick-fil-A Foundation is proud to honor The Gus Bus as a 2019 True Inspiration Award winner.
Click here to learn more about The Reading Road Show and The Gus Bus.