The following editorial appeared in Thursday's Washington Post:
Summer reading is more than just a chance to plow through the novels of Jack London or Laura Ingalls Wilder.
For many children, it's a time to think, ponder and imagine in a setting far from the pressures of school or the distractions of extracurricular activities. Research has shown that summer reading is time well spent: Young people who read during the summers are less likely to forget the things they learn in school the year before and are more likely to strengthen skills they need for the next grade level. The problem is that not all children have books or time to read, and those from economically challenged backgrounds typically come back from summers less prepared than their privileged counterparts. Worse, they're often unable to catch up.
At Abingdon Elementary School in Arlington, Va., however, that may no longer be the case. This summer, the school created a "book bus," which serves as a portable library.
Officially known as the "Read and Roll Bus," it is a former school bus for the disabled that has been refitted with shelves and nearly 2,000 donated books. Throughout the past few months, volunteers have been driving the same route between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Children can take up to three books at a time, and volunteers help them select titles appropriate to their reading levels.
The Read and Roll Bus may not be the ultimate answer to closing the skills gap that starts to emerge every summer. But it's a practical and sustainable solution that could make a difference in the long term for children from lower-income families who don't live near public libraries and are less likely to make their way to a library.