Featured Story

Elementary school principal creates bookmobile for Greenport


Normally, when someone hears a truck driving around town ringing a bell, they assume ice cream is right around the corner.

That won’t necessarily be the case this summer in Greenport.

Beginning July 12, Greenport Elementary School principal Joseph Tsaveras will fill a minibus or minivan with over 600 books for students through grade 6 and then drive around the village.

Every Tuesday for five weeks, students will be able to borrow a book free of charge and exchange it for a different one the following week. The last ride of the summer will take place Aug. 16.

“We’re trying to get kids to have books in their hands to read throughout the summer,” Mr. Tsaveras said. “We’re trying to promote reading and literacy with our kids in a fun way.”

In addition to Greenport’s residential neighborhoods, Mr. Tsaveras said stops will include Mitchell Park, Third Street Park and Fifth Street Park. In order to fill the vehicle he’ll be driving, he has asked elementary school teachers to recommend age-appropriate books they think students would enjoy.

Mr. Tsaveras said he was meeting with administration members when Superintendent David Gamberg mentioned Medford Elementary School began a summer bookmobile program in July 2003, when he was principal there. He said he “placed a magnetic sign on the side of [his] Ford Explorer, had bins of books in the back of the vehicle, rang a bell and traveled the community delivering books each week at designated locations.”

For at least five years after Mr. Gamberg left the district, his successor continued the program. Hearing this sparked the idea to adapt the program to suit Greenport.

“Being such a walking town and a tight-knit community, just driving the town I’m going to see the kids,” Mr. Tsaveras said. “They know who I am and they’ll feel comfortable.”

When students return a book they have borrowed, they’ll be given a postcard to fill out with some information about the book and what they liked about it. Mr. Tsaveras will deliver the postcards to teachers so that when school resumes in September they can share what they read with their classes.

Mr. Gamberg added that the administration may expand the concept down the road by bringing healthy snacks from the school garden to hand out with the books.

Mr. Tsaveras said the library on wheels concept couples with both the summer school program for first- to fourth-graders and with a book club for fifth- and sixth-graders run by assistant elementary school teacher Amy Gammon.

“It’s so important for kids to always be reading,” he said. “It’s not just a summer thing; it’s not just a during school thing. I think kids need to read all year long and for nine to 10 weeks of summer. If they’re not reading at all, that’s not good.

“There’s such a thing called regression,” he continued. “We want to get books in students’ hands so that they’re reading throughout the summer, they’re reading throughout the school year and reading because it’s who they are.”

[email protected]

Photo credit: Greenport Elementary School, courtesy