BRATTLEBORO — As mud season ends, the big bookmobile truck will come out of hibernation.
During this past winter, children in 27 early learning programs across Windham County have been able to look forward to bookmobile day. That’s when the Winston Prouty Center’s Sueño LeBlond stops by with a new delivery of books and materials from the Early Learning Express Bookmobile. Early educators have been hit hard financially by the pandemic and have even less ability than usual to enhance their libraries or purchase additional materials for their programs. Research shows that children are more motivated to read when they can choose their own books, so regular access to fresh titles via the ELE lending program keeps learning fun and supports providers at the same time.
This winter the bookmobile was loaning more than 600 items to 450 children and 100 adults each month at early learning programs in all corners of the county — from Vernon to Stratton, to Brookline and Halifax. Regular visits became more difficult with the demise of the SUV that has served as the “Winter Bookmobile” for eight years. The car had become unsafe to drive and unrepairable.
In January, Winston Prouty launched an online community campaign to replace the Winter Bookmobile. In less than two weeks, a network of 48 supporters from eight states contributed. An announcement on a bookmobile listserv in February led Winston Prouty to The Manton Foundation, a family foundation focused on New England. A grant from the foundation allowed Winston Prouty to purchase a new Toyota SUV which will serve as the Winter Bookmobile for years to come.
“Providers keep telling me how grateful they are to have the bookmobile continue service through the winter, and especially this year with the added isolation of COVID. For many children, it is one of the few things they have been able to continue to rely on – a fresh pile of books from the bookmobile. I feel really fortunate to be in this role for our community and am grateful for both the local and more far-flung financial supporters who keep the program on the road,” Sueño LeBlond, early childhood outreach specialist, said in a statement.
With the pandemic receding there are hopes that the ELE will again be offering in-person programs blending stories, songs, poetry, puppets and books throughout the region. The Early Learning Express Bookmobile is Winston Prouty’s only program that is funded 100 percent through philanthropy. For more information or to make a donation go to www.winstonprouty.org.