Gwinnett County Public Schools is taking a new approach to promoting reading during the summer months.

On Wednesday, GCPS’s bookmobiles kicked off the Books 2 Kids program in the South Gwinnett Cluster, giving away 1,888 books to Grace Snell Middle School and Snellville Middle School students.

Each summer, GCPS bookmobiles have rolled through apartment complexes and neighborhoods in Gwinnett County, making stops and allowing children to check out books for their reading pleasure.

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However, given this year’s pandemic situation and concerns about social distancing, instead of allowing kids to check out and return books, the bookmobiles are delivering books through the Books 2 Kids program that students get to keep.

Throughout June and July, the mobile libraries will visit more than 80 school locations and allow children to choose two new books to take home and keep for their personal library.

In addition to individual school events, the bookmobile will visit all GCPS middle schools to ensure students in every cluster have the opportunity to select books for summer reading.

“The mission of the bookmobile is still to get books into children’s hands, and this need is even more critical now,” GCPS’s Director of Media Services Mary Barbee said. “In the current health crisis, we could not safely use our traditional neighborhood checkout model. Instead, Books 2 Kids brings new, popular books to schools and students who come by and pick free books to keep. With this program, we are able to maintain social distancing while giving kids a chance to pick the book they are most likely to read at home.”

All Books 2 Kids events will take place outside in the bus lanes of the host schools and will follow social distancing guidelines. Students in the South Gwinnett Cluster were invited to stop in from 1-5 p.m. at Grace Snell Middle School or Snellville Middle School Wednesday to select their books.

“The turnout completely exceeded our expectation because of the weather,” said Jan Wilson, one of the coordinators of the Books 2 Kids program. “One of my favorite reactions was of a young man who ran back to his car with his two books and screamed, ‘Mom, I got my favorite two books!’ And we were super pleased that we had both middle and high schoolers show up as well.”

Wilson said she expects 500 visitors at each school location. With all types of books available from popular graphic novels, to picture books and beginning chapter books, between 80,000 to 100,000 books are expected to be given out through the program this summer.

“We have everything that’s current and trending that you can think of because we know after months of screen time there’s still a desire for students to hold a print book, so I along with several others in my office have been ordering like crazy to get new popular titles into their hands,” Wilson said. “... When students continue to read in the summer, it prepares their brain to accept new information and learning in the fall when they return to school and increases their vocabulary.”

To see when the bookmobiles will visit a school near you, check the calendar on the GCPS website.

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