Published online Wednesday, July 22, 2020 by The Daily Tribune News and in the Thursday, July 23, 2020 print edition


Continuing to expand its reach, The Bookmobile is teaming up with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to
provide water safety materials to youngsters. Through this partnership, The Bookmobile’s volunteers are able to
include a coloring and activity book in its book bundles this summer.

“Historically, The Bookmobile receives a lot of donated used books,” said Valerie Gilreath, president of The
Bookmobile’s board of directors. “A few weeks ago, our program director, Kim Dennis, was sorting through
some donations from several months ago — because we stopped taking donations of books in March — and
discovered a children’s coloring and activity book called ‘Bobber the Water Safety Dog,’ produced by the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers.

“We had already been talking with Missy Phillips at Keep Bartow Beautiful about partnering to distribute books
as part of KBB’s water education program, and Kim thought she might also be interested in this activity book.
Missy was interested, and reached out to Chris Purvis, our local Corps contact, to ask if he had any of these
resources available. He did and was glad to provide them.”

For Gilreath, this partnership is a “win-win” for both The Bookmobile and Corps of Engineers.
“We hope that this partnership accomplishes the missions of both organizations through shared resources,” she
said. “The Corps of Engineers is tasked with promoting water safety, and they have specialized materials geared
toward children to accomplish this goal. However, with events and gatherings canceled, they do not have ready
access to groups of children. Yet we know that children and families are still visiting lakes and pools and would
benefit from this information.

“At The Bookmobile, we are always looking for fun materials that support reading to give children along with
books. Coloring books are primarily for coloring, but they also have text and a simple story line. Activities, such
as word search and crossword puzzles, bolster word recognition, spelling and vocabulary.”

Echoing Gilreath’s comments, KBB Executive Director Missy Phillips is pleased to help the organizations forge
this new partnership.

“Keep Bartow Beautiful’s role in the Corps of Engineers and Bookmobile partnership is extremely small but
we’re happy to have helped make that connection,” she said. “KBB acts pretty much as a matchmaker for
partnerships. KBB collects needs and then attempts to make connections between those needs.

“In this case, The Bookmobile needed to be able to distribute some quality, yet entertaining, educational water
safety literature to kids during the summer — that time when kids are most likely to be in and around water.
With so many of our educational events, such as the Great Lake Allatoona After Picnic, canceled, we are all
casting about to find ways to fulfill our educational outreach needs in whatever way we can find.”

Formed in July 2017, The Bookmobile originally focused its efforts in south Bartow, but has since extended its
service area. In 2019, 152 new Bookmobile library cards were issued, 700 books were checked out and 3,610
books were distributed to families.

“The Bookmobile began because we saw a need for a program to augment services provided by the schools and
the local government to help families break the cycle of generational poverty,” Gilreath said. “Education is the
key to interrupting that cycle, and early reading is the surest way to promote academic success. Getting books
into the hands of children before they start school and teaching and encouraging parents to read to their
preschool age children builds the language and literacy skills kids need to be ready for school and to excel once
they get there.

“Then keeping kids reading for pleasure as they grow maintains that success and spurs them toward graduation.
Initially the program was focused in south Bartow, but it has evolved to include all of Bartow County. Also, in
addition to going into neighborhoods and appearing at events, we have added visits to childcare facilities to
promote early reading among the children there.”

Still operating during COVID-19, The Bookmobile has altered some of its offerings and is continuing to place
books in the hands of children.

“We currently have 436 Bookmobile library card holders,” Gilreath said. “In March 2020, we shifted our
program offerings in response to COVID-19, closing the mobile library and dramatically increasing the number
of books we give away. We also expanded the number of distribution locations with the help of partnerships and

“In April, May and June, we served approximately 918 children and gave away 2,755 new books. That is nearly
equal to the total number of books we gave away in all of 2019 distributed in just three months.”