Books on the Bus – An Award-Winning Community Collaboration

Posted:14 November 2017

Author: Shaba Qureshi, Community Learning Network

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This week, we are pleased to feature a guest blogger. LeeAnne Shinski is the Executive Director of the Lifelong Learning Council of Red Deer. 

Starting in January 2016, the Books on the Bus (BOTB) mini libraries were piloted on four city of Red Deer transit busses with funding from Red Deer & District Family Community & Support Services (FCSS). Fast forward to today, this Canadian first initiative has increased its reach to include 12 transit buses and a regional expansion to Red Deer County and the BOLT busses serving Lacombe and Blackfalds. This week, the program received the FCSSAA Award of Excellence Communities Over 85,000, for strengthening the social fabric of the community. 

Relying on donations of new and gently used soft covered books for children, youth, and adults; Books on the Bus has redistributed over 15,000 books within Red Deer over the past 18 months. Riders are encouraged to take the books, read them, and either share them or bring them back into the program. Recognizing that the program needed sustained volunteer involvement, partners were identified early on to provide collection and redistribution.

Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance, Cosmos, Lifelong Learning Council of Red Deer, Red Deer Public Library, Red Deer Transit and Social Planning/FCSS have created a strong partnership that has provided an inspirational example of how organizations can identify complementary goals and provide a coordinated effort toward improving their community.

“The relationships between the partners are very important, as everybody has a different role to play, from coordinating and organizing the project, to donating, gathering, sorting and volunteering to maintain the supply of books on the buses,” Brent Labrosse, Special Transit Operations Supervisor.

Through our involvement in Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance’s Literacy Action committee, we have operationalized our goal to increase access to literacy materials for those experiencing poverty. Lifelong Learning Council of Red Deer provides social media promotional support to the program as well. Through BOTB promotional stickers and bookmarks, information is shared regarding the free memberships at the Red Deer Public Library. 

“Poverty reduction research indicates that one of the strongest protective factors in guarding against adult poverty is the development of strong literacy skills in children.”- Dianna Souveny, City of Red Deer Social Planning.

Books on the Bus committee members provided free books, family literacy booklets, and library memberships at a Family Literacy Night event at Aspen Heights School in Red Deer.

The Books on the Bus program is currently being duplicated and explored in Medicine Hat, Banff, Winnipeg, and Yellowknife.

LeeAnne Shinski
Lifelong learning Council of Red Deer


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