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Mobile Library Outside Of Fort Worth Provides Summer Reading In A Book Desert

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During summer vacation, some students face difficulties getting reading materials in book deserts, which are areas that lack nearby, affordable bookstores and libraries. That's why one librarian outside of Fort Worth continues to host a mobile library initiative each summer.

Castleberry ISD librarian Heather Lamb said her district is located in a book desert, which means reading materials are often out of reach for many families.

“The closest public library to our parents, I think it's about seven miles. Another challenge for our families is transportation,” Lamb said. “If you don't have book access, we decided to provide book access.”

Launched four years ago, the mobile library is parked at a central part of the Castleberry ISD community every summer in June. It’s a bus filled with books and a mobile hotspot, so children can connect to the internet.

The Castleberry Independent School District has nearly 4,000 students, and 84% of students are considered economically disadvantaged — which means a student "is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch or other public assistance."

Unfortunately, due to COVID-related financial difficulties, the only public library in town was permanently closed during the pandemic.

“It's not just having the books, but also providing resources and providing information about reading with your children, and language development and vocabulary development and all of those things together,” Lamb said.

The school district is also working towards more sustainable book options, like subscriptions to digital book services. The book reading app Sora by the company Overdrive has been the district's latest initiative that's been integrated into students' library resources.

All of Castleberry ISD's schools also have a certified librarian, and a full-time aide position who help to provide books for low-income students.

But the work to get students to read isn’t limited to the summer months. Lamb said during the school year, the district will create pop-up libraries and bring books to students while they're in class.

"We also invite our parents to come in and get parent library cards, since we don't have a public library access anymore," she said. "But what we do have is provide parent access cards, and then we become a resource to them.".

Got a tip? Email Haya Panjwani at hpanjwani@kera.org. Follow Haya on Twitter @hayapanjw.

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