Tag Archives: VSP

The Magical World of Words

Jemelia and her brand new book.

“This place is full of magic,” said nine-year-old Jamelia as she stepped on the bus. The ceiling was painted in Starry Night swirls and the shelves were stocked with books, thousands of books. A smile stretched across her face as she imagined the possibilities.

The 2011 Transitions/VSP Success is in Sight Tour traveled to Harlem to be part of the Harlem Children’s Festival. Bess was joined by Eyenstein, the mobile vision clinic from Transitions and VSP in an effort to prepare kids for success in the classroom. While Bess the Book Bus gave away thousands of new books, the Transitions/VSP team gave our kids the gift of healthy sight by providing free eye exams and new glasses.

Harlem Children’s Festival is part of Harlem Week, a summer long celebration of community achievement. A marching band paraded down 135th street to open the event and then thousands of people followed. Local artists and musicians stretched city streets in between tables of hand-crafted jewelry and home cooked food. Pushcarts of Italian Ice weaved through the crowd in search of children with melting face paint. The scene stretched throughout the long city blocks.

A little something for everyone.

Bess and Eyenstein parked amidst it all, between the WHCR live broadcast and the talent show stage. Despite the wall of sound, lines formed as word spread about the free books. Retired teachers told parents. Teens told their friends. Kids grabbed their cousins and neighbors. From the Bluford series to Handy Manny, there was something on board for everyone. Even adults came aboard to ask if we had any books for them. Sometimes they said it with a laugh, sometimes with a whisper.

A father approached the bus with his three children and enthusiastically helped them pick out books. While they were sifting through the shelves, he stopped Jennifer and asked a question so quietly that it begged repeating.

“Do you have anything that will help me read better?”

This question has been common across the country, but it’s still shocking to hear. It takes courage to start that conversation, especially with a stranger. But the answer is always simple. “Yes. We do. You are already doing it”. Bring as many books as possible into your home. Read to your children. Read every day. Read anything you can get your hands on. Ask your librarian for help looking up family literacy initiatives like the National Center for Family Literacy.

Across the country, there are 93 million Americans who read below a fifth grade level. Adults living poverty are more likely to struggle with reading challenges. Those living in poverty also have less access to books. The answer to illiteracy isn’t magic. It is simple. Get more books into the homes of our families. Build home libraries and lifelong readers. Equal access to quality reading materials and other educational resources is critical to the success of this country. The good news? It is easy to do. Every dollar donated to Bess the Bus provides up to three new books for our families, opening worlds of opportunity.

Bess the Book Bus continues on to keep success in sight for children and families across the country. Follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for more updates through the trip. Until next time, safe travels through the pages.

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Focusing on Children’s Needs

The Detroit sun beats down on the loose gravel lot behind MacDowell Elementary. A sudden wave of record highs makes the ground shimmer in the shape two brightly colored buses and a tent. From un-airconditioned classrooms, children looked out the window wondering if what they are seeing is real. The intercom interrupts class to announce that guests from Florida and California have come to give away brand new books and eye exams.

There is less than a week left in the school, but this is the day Ryanne had been waiting for. She knew that is was coming, but it still felt like a mirage. In the middle of English Language Arts, her and her fifth grade class put down their pencils and pushed in their chairs. They left the vocabulary review and crosswords on their desks and went outside.

One by one, students exit through the double doors of the auditorium. Faint music with a pop techno beat first greets the students, then a cartoonish voice. They run toward the voice, toward the tent and starting cheering for Radio Disney. BC, the emcee of the D-Tour, gives away posters and rub on tattoos, then the students filter into two lines – one for the yellow bus and another for the blue. Ryanne enters the short line for the bigger blue bus first. The 45-foot custom built bus named SeeZar features two fully functional exam rooms. Ryanne has a seat and is quickly seen by an optometrist.

Ryanne has been having trouble in her classes. Headaches made it hard to focus. Books were hard to read. Recently, her glasses were stolen from her locker and she wasn’t eligible for new glasses for another year. The 2011/2012 Transitions/VSP Success in Sight Tour brought the resources to give the gift of healthy sight and brand new books.

The event, which was hosted by SVS Vision Care, made it possible for 70 students like Ryanne who are not able to afford glasses or eye exams. The American Optometric Association found that one in four children have an undetected vision problem that could impair learning. The services provided by Transition Lenses, VSP and SVS Vision make it possible for students in low income areas to stay competitive in the classroom. In addition to the eye exams, more than 2,000 books were given away to Ryanne and her schoolmates. The day was a success, but tomorrow’s event would top it.

Bess and SeeZar arrived early the next morning at Schultze Elementary. Temperatures promised to reach 95 degrees. And during the eight hour school day, more than 770 students would board Bess the Book Bus. SeeZar would screen 95 students and give away gift certificates to the additional 35 students who couldn’t be seen before the final bell rang.

The visit to Michigan marks the 10th state on the Transitions/VSP Success is in Sight Tour. We’ve traveled more than 5,000 miles and donated more than 18,000 books. The tour continues on with upcoming stops in Kansas City, KS and Greely, CO. Don’t forget to follow Bess the Book Bus on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to stay up to date on our travels.

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