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Book Bus Helping Tulsa Kids Avoid Falling Behind During Summer Break

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Over the summer, many kids who don't read end up falling behind, leaving several students at a disadvantage. One group is riding around on a bus to make sure that doesn't happen for some of Tulsa's most vulnerable students.

"Sometimes we have kids just waiting on the streets because they are so eager to trade books," said Lisa Schotts, Founder & Director of Gaining Ground.

Schotts is a teacher at Ellen Ochoa Elementary. She says she noticed that kids were starting to fall behind when they came back from summer vacation.

“Basically, if they slide every summer, by the time they reach 5th grade they're three years behind,” said Schotts.

That's when she decided to start Gaining Ground, a non-profit founded to help students in high poverty schools through summer reading programs.

Schotts says they started in a truck, then moved to a van and now they’ve upgraded to a mini school bus.

The bus is air conditioned and has a sound system so they can play music when they drive through the neighborhood.

They also have a slide, popsicles, and plenty of books to go around!

"We know that access to books is important, we know that book choice is important and we know that ongoing support is important," said Schotts.

At the beginning of summer, kids get 10 books to read then every Wednesday they can come to trade them out for new ones.  Students are also able to fill out a card with information about the books they read to be entered to win a prize.

"At the end of the summer they get to keep any books they have so it's not a loaning program its a giveaway program," said Schotts.

Several teachers from Union and Tulsa Public Schools come out to the stops every week to see some of their students and join in on the fun.

"It’s a place for them to come and choose what they want to read as opposed to being told what to read," said 3rd-grade teacher Patricia Reams.

Reams says a lot of parents are working during the day or don't have access to a car, so it makes it easier when the bus comes to them.

"They don't have much going on in the neighborhood and it keeps them busy learning to read," said Lamia Garza a parent of a child at Unity Learning Academy.

Students say they just can't wait to dive into another book.

“When I read my books I get lost in the story and I just want to keep reading it," said student Kirrie Garza.

And they can't wait to tell their teachers how many books they've read this summer.

“I think they'll be so proud of me that I read a lot,” said student Brooklyn Spivey.

Trying to turn a page for the future of education in Oklahoma.

“Once they have a love of reading then all of the other subjects will fall into place,” said Reams.

If you would like to withdraw some books or make a donation, you can visit the bus at one of its stops.  You can also donate at the Gaining Ground website.

The bus stop locations and times are Wednesdays at:

9:00 a.m. - Ellen Ochoa Car Loop

9:25 a.m. - East 31st Court South and South 126th East Avenue

9:45 a.m. - 126th East Avenue and East 33rd Place South 

10:05 a.m. - East 35th Street South

10:25 a.m. - 37th Street Court and 127th East Avenue

10:50 a.m. - South 121st East Place and East 37th Street South

11:15 a.m. - South 118th East Avenue and East 37th Street South

11:40 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. - East 34th Street South and South 118th East Avenue

1:00 p.m. - Apache Manor Recreation Center

1:30 p.m. - North Oswego Avenue and Young Street

1:45 p.m. - Young Street and North Urbana Avenue

2:00 p.m. - East Woodrow Place and North Sandusky Place

2:10 p.m. - Oswego Avenue and East Virgin Place

2:30 p.m. - Oswego Avenue and East Seminole Street

2:45 p.m. - East Virgin Place and North Louisville Avenue

3:00 p.m. - East Xyler Street and North Jamestown Avenue

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