TOPSHAM — Thanks to a couple of grants this past school year, Topsham Public Library has been able to expand the library’s Bus Book Bags program to serve about 200 more students on four additional buses within Maine School Administrative District 77. In late 2016, the library received a $500 grant from the Renys Charitable Foundation and a $1,000 grant from the National Home Library Foundation to purchase additional book bags and books for the children’s collections as part of the Bus Book Bags program.

“Even the high school and middle school kids are reading,” said MSAD 75 bus driver Don Sanders, who launched this program in partnership with the Topsham Public Library about three years ago. Sanders has been collaborating with Topsham Public Library’s Children’s Librarian Mariah Sewall to bring library books to students within MSAD 75 as part of the Bus Book Bags program.

What began as an attempt to help kids on his bus to get along with each other has transformed into a mobile literacy program that now serves more than 650 students on 13 of the district’s 30 buses and engages students in the power of storytelling, language and literacy. Children’s Librarian Mariah Sewall curates fresh collections of books every eight weeks for the Bus Book Bags and Sanders distributes and recirculates those collections every week on 13 school buses within the district.

“When I look up in the mirror as I’m driving the bus and see the kids reading, sharing the books with each other and giggling, it makes all my time on this program worth it,” he says.

Sanders and Sewall have received national attention as school districts and libraries reach out to them to find out how they can run this type of program in their own town. The Bus Book Bags program was honored with the 2016 Maine Education Association Joan McGovern Education Support Professional Award; a 2015 WCSH-6 “Schools that Shine” award; and the 2015 Giraffe Award in the Out of the Box category from the Maine Children’s Alliance.

Topsham Public Library is located at 25 Foreside Road. For more information, call 725-1727 or visit www.topshamlibrary.org.