Books on the Bus encourages literacy in Red Deer

  • Jan. 27, 2016 3:28 p.m.

The City of Red Deer has officially launched the Books on the Bus pilot program, thanks to the help of many community partners.

The program consists of mini-libraries on four City buses in order to promote reading and literacy. According to officials, it’s the first of its’ kind in Alberta. The intent is to remove barriers of access to books, encourage reading in the community and to build social connections.

“A lot of communities have these small, free libraries around the community in walking paths and that sort of thing. We have a lot of people who use transit, especially moms and fathers with their children. We thought it was a great opportunity to get those people reading books without having to go to the library,” said George Penny, transit manager with the City of Red Deer.

“It just seemed like a great way to sell the idea of reading. I’ve always been passionate about reading myself and I think it’s a great opportunity.”

This project was made possible with the supporting partnerships of the Red Deer Public Library (RDPL), Red Deer and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance (CAPRA), Cosmos and Red Deer Transit.

The initiative is part of the Small Acts Matter campaign, which is a City of Red Deer campaign to remind people that small, meaningful acts and changes can support children, youth, families, seniors and communities in Central Alberta.

“We know that literacy is the foundation of our educational, economic and social programs. While there are many means of achieving literacy, instilling a love of books, a love of reading and a love of lifelong learning is the most effective and compelling route,” said Mayor Tara Veer.

“The City is in the business of eliminating barriers and increasing accessibility. We are always looking for ways to allow citizens and families better access to City services that help Red Deerians engage in community life.

“Transit naturally provides affordable access to help our community be more mobile, earn a living and attend school. Libraries – even small, mobile ones such as those on these buses – provide access to affordable reading and all of the benefits that reading affords.”

Veer was excited to help present the new program to the public and to the participating partners after months of preparation. She said it is a way to help bring together families by encouraging them to make time during their commute to read together.

“Reading is often, but not always, a solitary activity, books are now becoming community builders. Engaging our transit ridership to participate in a program that is bigger than a few books on the shelf is just one way we are building community in the short and the long term,” she said.

The six-month trial period of the program rolled out on Jan. 21st, with four buses equipped with a small, mobile library. The libraries will be restocked daily by volunteers from Cosmos. Donations of books can be dropped off at Red Deer Public Library locations around the City.

“I’m pleased to launch a program today that increases access to books and encourages reading. Books on the Bus is a program that doesn’t take much to champion but has a lot of potential to create big impacts. Reading is certainly no small act and we know it’s often a critical factor personal and professional success,” Penny said.

“These small free public libraries located on select City buses are something we hope will connect people to the bigger picture and will provide and opportunity of engagement.”