The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 8, 2014

All aboard Bess the Book Bus

Mobile literacy outreach program visits Mankato

MANKATO — Four by four, 60 preschool-age children enrolled in programs at the Lincoln Community Center were invited up the two big steps and into Bess the Book Bus on Thursday morning.

The bus owner, Jennifer Frances, and her volunteer roadie, David Fain, had dozens of books and handmade reading blankets to give to the kids to help encourage literacy from a young age.

"Oh, that's a good one," Frances said to a little boy. "That's one of my favorites."

Frances of Tampa, Florida, founded Bess the Book Bus in 2002 in honor of her "nana," Bess O'Keefe, who taught her to love books. Every weekend they would walk to pick out a new book, and Frances couldn't wait to get home to have her grandmother read it.

To share that same joy with as many children as possible, Frances and Fain tour the country in Bess and visit numerous Title I schools and community organizations, giving away books and reading stories while they're there. Numerous donors and sponsors, including Capstone Press in North Mankato, keep Bess stocked with books, full of gas, and on the road to its next happy crop of young readers.

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