Bess the Book Bus to return to Houlton

Posted July 04, 2011, at 2:22 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — For the second year in a row, a yellow bus carrying a load of new and used children’s books will stop in Houlton to encourage literacy.

The Aid For Kids Foundation will host Bess the Book Bus and a children’s fair from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 16, at Houlton Community Park.

The book bus is a mobile literacy outreach that travels across the country giving books to children.

The sunny yellow bus, which carries thousands of new and used children’s books, is driven by Jennifer Frances and her crew, based in Tampa, Fla. Frances, 39, of Tampa cashed in her 401(k) to establish the bus nine years ago. The bus has done national tours since 2005.

Bess the Book Bus is open to all children and receives books from a number of organizations, including First Book, an international nonprofit that works through existing community programs to provide books for children.

Frances named the bus after her maternal grandmother, who walked to town with her once a week to buy her a new book when she was a child.

When the bus first stopped in Houlton last year, children walked away with an estimated 300 books. The bus is now on its third national trip.

Rebecca Emberley, an author and illustrator from Kittery, will be on hand in Houlton to sign copies of her book “Adventure Girl” and other books that will be given to children for free. Emberley has written more than 40 children’s books. She will also be doing a hands-on craft activity that coincides with her book.

Dannette Ellis with the Aid for Kids Foundation said Friday that organizers will once again make the event about  more than just books. This year, officials from the Let’s Go Program and Healthy Aroostook will be on hand to teach children about leading a healthful lifestyle. Children will take part in a “story walk,” which will allow them to physically walk through a story so they can get exercise while they are reading.

The Maine Masons will be offering their Child Identification Program. It is a comprehensive child identification and protection tool that includes a DNA sample, a fingerprint and a video of their child that parents can keep on hand in case their youngster ever goes missing.

The Houlton Fire Department also will be on hand to display its Hazard House, which is a hands-on learning tool. It resembles a dollhouse with three-dimensional parts and tokens that can be maneuvered to turn the house from a fire hazard into a safe home.

The Ark Animal Sanctuary will have a table about the work it does to safeguard and find homes for animals, and Bangor Savings Bank will be depositing $5 into any new Great Start Children’s savings account that is opened from 1 to 5 p.m. Participants will need to bring Social Security cards for both the parent and child. TD Bank also will have its summer reading program available for children to enroll in. A representative of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Eat Well Nutrition Education program will do a presentation and there also will be a Zumba demonstration for children.

For more information, go to www.aidforkids.org.

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