By Mary O'Callaghan
Even though the coronavirus pandemic has created a time of uncertainty, one thing that is certain is how much the White Plains teachers care about their students. A good example of this is the White Plains Book Bus.
The White Plains Book Bus, which is run by teacher-volunteers, gives families an opportunity to bring new books home during these trying times. I had the pleasure of going to one of the many recent book drives at Rochambeau School this past Wednesday, and I was beyond impressed. The staff volunteers were very kind and hard-working. I asked Kara Lyons, president of the White Plains Teachers’ Association and Book Bus volunteer how the school procured thousands of books. She replied that the New York State United Teachers Union first offered White Plains about $13,000 worth of books, to which Lyons said, “That’s awesome. But how can we get more books?” According to Lyons, the union then replied, “Well if you contribute $4,500, we will get the state union to contribute $4,500, we will get the American Federation of Teachers to contribute $4,500, and we will work with First Book to get you approximately $500,000 worth of books.” And that equals 40,000 books.
The Book Bus has been to several locations so far, including the High School, Post Road, Eastview, Rochambeau, and Church Street. “We’re going to try to get them out to some of the community partners..,” said Lyons. “…the Slater center, the Coachman, and we’re going to put some aside for the Youth Bureau, and El Centro Hispano.” Lyons added that the PTA is going to get some palettes of books for their book giveaway as well. “Then, we have to see what the guidance will be after May 15th from the governor,” said Lyons. “And then we’ll be able to coordinate more events.”
White Plains families are not the only ones experiencing the generosity of the Book Bus; local politicians and leaders have also stopped by. “Senator Shelley Mayer came out the other day to hand out books,” said Lyons. “David Buchwald is coming today, Dr. Ricca has come…so it’s been really awesome!”
Ms. Jennifer Stein, teacher at WPHS, volunteers to distribute books to students.
The community response to the Book Bus has also been amazing, said Jennifer Stein, staff volunteer and English teacher at White Plains High School. “We’ve had really positive feedback. If you see the smiles on the kids’ faces, they’re just really, really happy! There’s not a lot of positive going on right now,” to which Lyons added, “It’s like a ray of sunshine!”
The generosity and kindness shown by the White Plains Teachers’ Association and the staff volunteers at the local events has given families a place to feel included in their community after the COVID-19 pandemic took normalcy from their lives. The White Plains Book Bus also gives families a reassurance that teachers and the community still care, even if they have to stay six feet away.
Teachers volunteering to distribute books.