Program boosts summer reading by taking books to kids

by: TIMES PHOTO: BARBARA SHERMAN - Diane Bonica (center), a longtime kindergarten teacher at Deer Creek Elementary, coordinates Deer Creek on Wheels, a program that for four years has provided free books to children every summer in several residential complexes, including Mountain View Estates. Excitement and anticipation were in the air at Mountain View Estates in King City before Deer Creek on Wheels volunteers made an appearance.

This was the third stop of the day for the mobile library after first going to the Woodridge Apartments and Beef Bend Court, but there were still lots of books and materials for children to choose from.

“This is our fourth year, and it’s not limited to the apartment complexes — anyone who lives nearby can come and get books, including grandparents and teens,” said Deer Creek kindergarten teacher Diane Bonica, who works with others to collect books throughout the school year to deliver during the summer.

Volunteers got the word out in advance about the bookmobile appearances through robo-calls, fliers and word of mouth, according to Bonica.

“I take requests too,” Bonica said. “One little boy at the Woodridge Apartments had five requests, and at 6 a.m., he was waiting for us, according to his mom.”

Bonica started the summer with 2,500 books and gave away 700 the first day. She plans on returning to the same complexes every other Wednesday. “I want to help families build home libraries,” said Bonica, who also provides workbooks for those who want them. “We tell the kids, ‘These books are yours.’

“Every grade level has a sight word list, and I tell the kids they can mark words in their books because they own them. Research shows that kids with books in their homes do better in school. And the other thing these book donations say is, ‘Deer Creek teachers really care about you.’”

Bonica was not alone at the recent book give-away as other Deer Creek teachers and volunteers were on hand to help kids choose books. In addition, Janet Weber, youth services librarian at the Tigard Public Library, was there to sign up kids for the summer reading program, “Dig into Reading!”

Once signed up, kids read books, fill out reading records and turn them in between now and Aug. 31 to earn “cool” prizes, including a paperback of their choice, a coupon for a $5 deluxe ride bracelet to redeem at Oaks Amusement Park, Timbers tickets, bookmarks, pencils and more.

Weber said she would return in August to pick up the kids’ competed reading records and hand out the prizes they won. “Kids can set their own goals and choose to read a number of books or a certain number of books,” Weber said.

“This is the first year we have come back in August so kids can claim their prizes without having to go to the library,” she added.

As the number of kids and moms picking up books slowly dwindled at Mountain View Estates, Bonica noted, “We brought 50 sacks and have used them all up.”

But a couple more kids came by, and she found a couple more in her car.

Besides accepting donated books at Deer Creek during the school year, Bonica secured funds to purchase more by applying for grants, including one called Kids in Need; local businesses, including Fred Meyer, also made donations.

“And I asked teachers to order more high-interest books, and I hit up retiring teachers to donate books,” Bonica said. “Also, at the end of the school year, I ask teachers to donate their markers, crayons and other supplies, so later in the summer we can donate them as families start to accumulate back-to-school supplies.”

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