History of the Book Cafe

  • It all started with a simple belief: children should spend their summers playing, swimming, biking, camping, and reading - all children.

    What began as an attempt to have the school library open and accessible for students during summer vacation has morphed into a book mobile that travels weekly to local neighborhoods handing out free books.

    Over the years, teachers at the district's Emerson Elementary noticed student test scores in September were significantly lower from when the same students had tested in June. In an attempt to alleviate the lack of reading and avoid the "summer slide," the school library was open during the summer of 2012 for students to drop in and check out new books. While the school library being accessible during summer vacation was great, the group of educators realized more students simply needed to be reading and we needed to do more outreach to more students. The lack of summer reading greatly impacted their learning when students returned to school in the fall. The regression was significant enough that it was realized more needed to be done.

    Along the same time, our school district's summer meal program was able to add mobile service to neighborhoods located outside of the downtown area. The Kids' Cafe summer meal van began delivering daily lunch service to two outlying mobile home parks. Emerson Elementary Librarian Jenny Granger had the passion and the vision to develop the Book Cafe. What if, she thought, the Book Cafe was able to follow the Kids' Cafe along and bring free books to those same children - feeding brains and tummies at the same time? From that idea, the Book Cafe was born June 2013.

    With a $1,500 grant from the Snohomish Education Foundation, Jenny Granger and the Book Cafe were able to provide books and gas to get the program off the ground. Jenny and a small group of passionate district educators used a district van and began following the meal van to the various neighborhoods. They set up tables and tubs, handed out free books and read with students. Students were able to keep the books if they were books they enjoyed reading. Or, they could return their books the next week when the Book Cafe returned to their neighborhood. Either way, books were getting into the hands of kids throughout summer vacation.

    Summer 2014, the Snohomish Book Cafe was able to renovate a surplussed school bus and hit the road again. Another grant from the Snohomish Education Foundation helped provide new books and gas for the bus to run each week. The outpouring of support from the community in the form of book donations was amazing! Hundreds of gently used books were donated and put into the hands of students.

    The Snohomish Book Cafe continues to evolve. In the spring of 2015, the Snohomish School District was able to acquire a retired book mobile. The vehicle was retrofitted for the Book Cafe's purpose, and it hit the road once again. Each year since, the Book Cafe has grown and had successful summers connecting kids with great books to read. 

    The foundation of this summer reading program has been based on the research of  Dr. Richard Allington, a leading reading expert in the field of education. Dr. Allington's book, Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap (2014), highlights the fact that summer reading loss accounts for almost 80% of the reading gap between students from homes of poverty and students who come from homes that live above the poverty level. Adding to this, the research done by Eric Jensen, a leading researcher on the effects of poverty and children (Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids Brains and What Schools Can Do About It, 2009), compounds the issue many of our students face during both the school year as well as during summer vacation.

    The Book Cafe strongly encourages students to keep the books to continue to grow their personal library at home. The Snohomish Book Cafe operates during summer vacation to provide support and opportunities for all students.

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