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Rules of the road
     Where reading and riding are two of the three 'r's
Last week, 24 total employees and volunteers of the Moses Lake School District were honored during the 2002-2003 Award of Excellence ceremony. As the first nominee and winner from the transportation department, Bob "Pops" Carter was recognized for encouraging students to read on his bus routes.

By Lynne Miller
Herald staff writer

Bob "Pops" Carter shows off some of the books in his traveling collection at Larson Heights School.
     When school bus driver Bob "Pops" Carter had to come up with a solution in dealing with what he called a "very, very active" kindergartner, he never realized how rapidly his newly introduced concept would take off.
     Last year, the 64-year-old decided he would have an older child, a fourth-grader, read to the younger student who had started school later in the year and was not fully versed in the bus rules.
     Currently, Carter's bus routes include runs to Larson Heights Elementary, Moses Lake High School and Chief Moses Middle School. And reading on the bus is now being done on three buses regularly, with some of the special education buses carrying books on a casual basis.
     "A few of the drivers pick and choose their moments to use them," Carter explained.
     This solutions oriented individual has not gone unnoticed. Last week, Carter was presented with an award of excellence from the Moses Lake School District for having a mini-library on his bus routes.
     When Carter compiled his library, he started out with children's books and incorporated classics by Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens. And for the older students, he made sure to include books from "The Babysitters" series.
     The Golden Books, which cover such topics as astronomy, nature and animals, are so popular that they end up in student's backpacks. In fact, Carter's Golden Book on weather is getting some heavy use from one student. "I have a feeling it will disappear," Carter said.
     Initial expenses for Carter were in the $50 range for used books. At that time, he realized he couldn't do it alone. So he told Transportation Manager John Eschenbacher, who put the word out that Carter needed books. Parents and the Moses Lake business Well Read Books have been donating reading materials.
     "We've heard positive stuff. What we're getting from parents is that it's very positive. We're glad students are being offered something educational to do," Eschenbacher said.
     Eschenbacher doesn't just go on what he hears. He has the proof on video. When comparing past and present video surveillance of Carter's route, an improvement can be seen, Eschenbacher said. During previous years, there was heightened activity on the Larson Heights route, he added.
     But now, instead of students getting up out of their seats, their seats are glued to the seats. And their noses are in a book.
     "It pretty quickly took off that it's all right to read," Carter said. He's even had middle school students borrow books out of the box and bring them back after a while.
     "I don't put pop-up books on the bus anymore because inevitably, the books will get torn and the kids feel bad about it. It's not a good thing to have on the bus, in my opinion," Carter explained.
     Carter has grown children and grandchildren. "I was reading before I was in kindergarten," Carter admitted. "My kids, like me, are voracious readers. I did a lot of reading with, not much reading to (his children)."
     He grew up in a newspaper family in Boulder City, Nevada, where his father owned a weekly publication. "Part of being alive is that you read. You better learn things, because if you don't, you're not going anyplace."
     One of his students approached him a few weeks ago and apologized for not bringing a book back. The child's father, who doesn't speak English as his primary language, was reading it. "It's incidents like this that make the whole thing worthwhile," Carter said.
     Carter estimates that he has about 100 books on the participating buses right now, which are safely stored in a plastic file box under the dashboard. "It's contained and if we do have an accident, they (the books) won't go flying about," Carter said.
     One driver had a regular 10-minute layover with a group of younger children. What could be perceived as a recipe for disaster is anything but that.
     "She has started reading to them and some of the older kids come on to listen to them read to the little ones. The older ones show the little ones it's okay to be quiet and listen," Carter explained.
     "Kids are starting to bring books on the bus and read them from home and from school. So we're getting an improvement there," Carter said.
     And in case anyone was wondering, there have been very few problems with the students getting carsick while reading. "There's enough distractions (on the bus) with kids looking up from their books. You put 75 kids on a bus and there's a lot going on," Carter explained.
     To donate new or used books for reading on the bus, deliver them to your neighborhood elementary school and be sure to designate their use for the transportation department.

P.O. Box 910/ 813 W. Third/ Moses Lake, WA 98837/ 509-765-4561
Columbia Basin Herald Copyright 2003