GOOD

Librarians on Bikes Are Delivering Books and WiFi to Kids in “Book Deserts”

Thousands of kids live in "book deserts," without easy access to libraries. #ProjectLiteracy

Image via Seattle Public Library.

“Food deserts" refer to low-income areas where convenience stores are often the only viable food source and fresh produce is a rarity. But nutritious foods aren't the only thing kids need to thrive and grow.


Many of these undernourished kids also live in so-called "book deserts"—areas without easy access to libraries and reading material to nurture their imaginations and development (just think of the 12-year-old boy in Utah who asked his mailman for junk mail to read because he couldn't get to a library).

To combat these problems, creative-thinking librarians and literacy supporters are using inventive solutions to expand access to books and promote a love of reading.

In the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Soar with Reading (a project of JetBlue Airlines) installed book vending machines to dispense 100,000 brand-new free books in three locations for kids ages 0-14. Soar with Reading is now accepting votes for its next city, with Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, Houston, and Fort Lauderdale in the running.

Outside the U.S., Book Bus delivers accessible and relevant books to children in Africa, Asia, and South America. So far, the charity has reached over 10,000 kids in Zambia, Malawi and Ecaudor, with the goal of reaching 10,000 more kids by 2016.

Image via Bibliobicicleta.

Meanwhile in India, a program called PlanetRead was recognized as an innovative way to improve child literacy at International Literacy Day in 2012. Self-described as "karaoke on Bollywood for mass reading," PlanetRead uses Same Language Subtitling (SLS) to subtitle movies or music videos on Indian TV to help weak readers improve their reading skills.

Books on bikes are another creative solution gaining popularity in the U.S. and abroad. A scaled-down version of the book mobiles that were once a fixture of many middle- and upper-class childhoods in America, these pedal-powered libraries allow librarians to bring books out of the library shelves and into the communities they serve. And in places that lack roads and infrastructure for a book mobile, they can also prove more practical.

Seattle Public Library's Books on Bikes program started in May 2013, following an internal campaign to create more innovative outreach programs. "Seattle has a really strong bike culture so we wanted to tap into that and provide full service library programs but do it in a way that is nimble," says managing librarian Jared Mills, who spearheads the program.

Seattle Public Library has three different bike trailers that librarians bring to community events, curating reading material based on the event's focus. One trailer has a children's theme. "Children's librarians have a great time bringing children's activities to different communities," Mills says. "It's neat to see the kids touching [the trailer]. It brings that joy of reading and discovery."

Image via Seattle Public Library.

The trailers are also wifi-enabled so that librarians can register people for a library card and check out books on the spot using an iPad. "You can walk up and walk away with an arm full of books," Mills says. "When we're out riding, we get people honking and waving. They love that the library is out in such a unique way." In the course of a year, the Books on Bike program visits 20-30 events and services around 1,500 people.

In San Francisco, private school librarian and bicycle enthusiast Alicia Tapia started Bibliobicicleta, a donation-based library on bicycle, in May 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Tapia's bike trailer can carry about 100 books at any given time, and she says the Bibliobicicleta attracts readers of all ages, lifestyles and income levels. "Of course kids are a little more brave to just approach the bike but adults—if they're not too cool—will stop and see what it's all about," she says.

Tapia hands out donated books in San Francisco's Pandhandle neighborhood on Tuesday evenings, but she'll also ride to the Mission Area and Golden Gate Park as time and weather allow. In the near future, she hopes to get an electric motor installed on her bike so she can travel further afield. "I want to go to other places, but the hills of San Francisco don't make it safe to do that with the weight I'm carrying," she explains.

While cycling around with a book-laden trailer can be tiring, Tapia finds the project deeply rewarding. "Books do something for the human brain that nothing else can," she says. "With books comes happiness, and people build empathy for one another. [We're trying to offer] new perspectives and reignite an enthusiasm for reading."

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health