Driving Up Literacy Rates

For children across America, reading means the freedom to pursue dreams. It opens up a sense of possibilities beyond their everyday existence. But many children have limited access to books and many schools struggle to improve early literacy rates. In 2013, Lowe’s teamed up with a group of partners in Charlotte, North Carolina, to help change that.

Lowe’s and the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats launched the Book Bus, a 34-foot-long renovated school bus that travels across the Greater Charlotte area to encourage reading and help improve literacy rates by distributing free books to students during the school year and summer. In the first year of its three-year run, the Book Bus gave away 3,800 books to students at more than 100 elementary schools.

The Book Bus and the reading support provided at our schools will bring reading alive for our students. We appreciate the support of our great partners in helping our students attain literacy by third grade.
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison

At its first stop, Albemarle Road Elementary School, the sight of the bus stocked with 3,000 books overwhelmed students.

“If I can read all those books, I can get into college,” said Jacob Davenport, 8.

“I just want to go in the bus and live in that pile of books forever and ever,” said Kyara Washington, 7.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was just as impressed.

“I travel around the country, really around the world these days at these kind of events and I can’t remember one where there’s this much excitement,” Silver said. “To see these kids so excited about reading, thanks to companies like Lowe’s. Without Lowe’s, we wouldn’t be here.”

The partnership continues Lowe’s longstanding commitment to education, both financially and through employees who volunteer their time to encourage students to pick up a book and read.

Getting students from low-income and underserved communities up to par in reading has been an ongoing challenge for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The district’s goal is to ensure that all third-graders can read at grade level before being promoted. But 2013 state exams revealed that nearly 53 percent of third-graders failed reading.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library partner with Lowe’s and the Bobcats to select the books and identify the best stops for the bus. During the summer, the Book Bus visits camps and literacy programs at schools and public libraries. Children who don’t keep reading tend to lose ground during the summer.

Early returns indicate the bus has helped raise awareness of the importance of reading.

“They know that I love to read. They know their other teachers love to read and we’re trying to instill that sense of love for reading in them,” said Alice Day Brown, second-grade teacher at Sedgefield Elementary. “But to see people from the outside community come in, and especially those role models come in, has a whole different impact than we can have on them.”