Harris' Heroes: Abingdon Elementary's Read and Roll Book Bus

Rising fourth grader Rayane Razanakoto in front of the Read and Roll Book Bus. (WJLA)

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) – Arlington Public Schools students return to class next week, and many teachers will spend the first few weeks helping students re-learn material forgotten over the summer. But Abingdon Elementary School has found a different solution—at least when it comes to reading.

Abingdon Elementary’s Read and Roll Book Bus is a library on wheels, as well as the school’s solution to curb what’s known as the “summer slide.”

“Typically, if students don’t read, they will slide about three months,” said Principal Joanne Uyeda. “We wanted to make sure our students are reading all summer, so we brought the books to them, into the neighborhood.”

“We need to look at how school continues year round, and learning is continuous and ongoing,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy.

At each of the five bus stops, the school’s principal, reading specialists and teachers greet students and help them pick out books.

Longtime Abingdon Elementary kindergarten teacher Lynn Robinson has been riding the Read and Roll Book Bus since the program started three summers ago.

“I think these are kids who would not read if the books didn’t come to them,” she said.

Many students love the library bus.

“It’s cool and it’s a good way to read,” said rising third grader Norma Machado.

“It’s so much fun,” said rising fourth grader Rayane Razanakoto. “My house is actually very close to the book bus stop.”

“I like that it comes around, so I don’t have to go to a public library,” said rising sixth grader Jose Rodriguez.

Parents also like the book bus.

“I think it’s very good for the kids, so they can still [read] in the summer,” said parent Mary Carmen.

“It improves their reading skills,” said Natalie Razanakoto.

Reading specialists Susanna Smith and Mary Lou Rube, who first brought the idea of a library on wheels to the school, say the reward of the program is seeing students develop a love of reading.

“I think we can’t ever not do it. It’s expected now, not only from our students, but from the county, the community, and we love doing it,” the pair said.

Principal Uyeda says as a result of the Read and Roll Book Bus, 75 percent of students now start class in the fall either at the same reading level or even make gains.

All of the teachers riding the book bus each week during the summer are volunteers.