(NEW YORK) — When a child on Julie Callison’s bus was having a hard time sitting still, he didn’t get punished. He got a book.
Callison asked the child’s sister, who also rides the bus, to read to the preschooler.
Callison drives a bus and teaches for the Drew Central School District in southeast Arkansas, which serves Pre-K through 12th grade. She teaches special education for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade at Drew Central Elementary.
“When I handed her [the child’s older sister] a book, several other students on the bus said, ‘I want a book!'” Callison told “Good Morning America.” “I handed out every book I had in my bag and students began reading all over the bus. Some students needed help reading at which point I asked some older students to read to them. Students were no longer up and down out of their seat but quietly reading.”
And the idea for the bus bucket of books and the book buddies was born.
Here’s how it works: When students get on the bus they can get up to three books. After they read those, they can share with students around them, then put them back in the bucket on the way out the door.
Older students reading to younger students, and younger students reading to older students.
On Friday afternoons there’s a ‘Special Guest Reader,’ usually a high school or middle school student who picks out a book, sits on the front seat and reads it over the speaker to the whole bus.
“Our district has a high poverty rate and the bucket of books on the bus give these students more access to a variety of reading materials at many levels,” Callison said.
It also boosts the kids’ confidence.
“There are several students on my bus that have reading disabilities, whom I teach currently or have taught in the past, and they are not afraid to read to another child and love to be the one to help younger students read,” Callison said. “It is a confidence booster because in their classroom, with same age peers, it is usually someone else helping them. I even had one former student with a reading disability be the special guest reader! She confidently read her book to the whole bus. I was so proud of her.”
“Through our R.I.S.E. Arkansas initiative (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence), our goals are to increase and strengthen instruction, create community collaboration, and build a culture of reading,” Kimberly Friedman, Director of Communications for the Arkansas Department of Education, told “GMA.” “Ms. Callison’s efforts align with the goals of R.I.S.E. Arkansas and is one of many examples of how educators have embraced the initiative.”
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