ANKENY, Iowa — “Not all kids are able to get to the building, so what better way to get books in kids’ hands than to take the books to the children?”
It’s a point well made by Joy DeJong, a 5th grade teacher at Southeast Elementary, and it’s exactly what DeJong is doing. Concerned about the summer slide in reading, DeJong started collecting books a year ago and putting them in the trunk of her car so she could bring a makeshift library on wheels directly to the kids.
“It was heavy. I didn’t have enough room. It just wasn’t very convenient,” she said. “It was hard to show off the books, just in a tub.”
DeJong’s real dream was to have a book mobile.
“So, I threw that out to my small group for my church and a friend saw an old horse trailer on Craigslist and we purchased it, and then it just sort of took off from there,” said DeJong.
Friends, parents, and teachers have all donated top quality books to the cause, creating a great collection for the book mobile.
Children borrow 2-3 books at a time and are asked to return them in a week.
“It would be almost impossible for me to check these books out,” said DeJong. So instead, the book mobile operates on the honor system.
“My philosophy is, if we lose a book to a child, that is probably the greatest loss we’ll have.”
What DeJong is really concerned about is a whole generation of kids missing out on developing a love for reading.
“I believe, personally, we have a window of time to get kids to be life-long readers and it’s usually in the elementary age, and once they get into middle school and high school, if they haven’t found that book that connects them and causes them to read, you sort of lose them,” she said.
This is why for DeJong, getting kids hooked on reading is a passion and a calling.
“What I’ve learned is be careful what you pray for, because I took this little tub of books and just wanted to serve the kids of our community and it’s turned into this huge book mobile. People want to help, so it’s turned into us needing to get a non-profit status. It’s turned into people thinking, you know, maybe it needs to be bigger,” said DeJong. “It’s been really cool just to watch to see where God’s taking this, and I’m more than willing to hold on for the ride.”
For more info on the book mobile, click here.