JMU Gus Bus goes virtual to promote reading to Harrisonburg children

James Madison University jmuThe coronavirus isn’t stopping the Gus Bus from promoting reading to Harrisonburg schoolchildren in grades K-5.

While the bus cannot make its rounds through 18 neighborhood sites Monday through Thursday, the staff is still providing the service via YouTube and promoting it on their Facebook page and with help from city schools and other partners.

“We have four literacy specialists and they’re all taking their own approach” to recording themselves reading the books, said Jolynne Bartley, assistant director of Children and Youth Services at the JMU Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services, the home of the Gus Bus. One of the specialists is bilingual and is reading stories in Spanish.

The Gus Bus is attempting to post one new story just about every day, Bartley said. Each staff member took 10 books home with them from the Gus Bus library and more are available if they are needed. The first story was posted about a week ago and all the stories that have been read so far are available on the site.

Bartley said the staff is also brainstorming other activities they can provide via the Gus Bus social media channels to stimulate student learning while the students are required to learn at their homes. “The schools are doing a fabulous job and we’re just trying to make sure we’re still connecting and providing more and supporting their efforts,” she said. “We’re still exploring opportunities outside the YouTube channel and ways to have more live face time with families.”

In a partnership with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, the Gus Bus also is continuing to provide non-perishable food items to families. The food truck continues to stop at the 18 sites Monday through Thursday, but is starting the route at 1 p.m. each day rather than 4 p.m.

About The Reading Road Show/Gus Bus

The Reading Road Show, a program of the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services at JMU and more affectionately known as the Gus Bus, is a mobile literacy program that helps bring literacy opportunities into students’ neighborhoods. On the Gus Bus, instructors provide story time, activities and book checkout for students. The Gus Bus also works in collaboration with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to give out food bags at the neighborhood stops.

Story courtesy JMU Media Relations

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