Bus driver’s book giveaway opens new door for schoolkids

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child with books donated by bus driver
A child from Holdeman Elementary in Tempe is one of hundreds who boarded a school bus on the last day of class in order to receive books donated by a former Tempe Elementary school bus driver and her coworkers at Valley Metro. Photo by Robyn Martinez

By Gabrielle Dunton

With the long, hot days of summer underway, employees from Valley Metro are making an effort to ensure that Holdeman Elementary students have access to books to page through when it’s too hot to play outside.

The Driving for Books initiative is led by Valley Metro bus operator Jermaine Bethea; this is the third year the donation drive has helped support a school in the Tempe Elementary district.

“I think being able to bring physical books into students’ hands is a great thing,” said Bethea. “We want to promote summer reading as much as possible so that nothing is lost while they’re not in school.”

Before getting behind the wheel for Valley Metro, BetheFa drove a school bus for the Tempe Elementary district. As a way to give back to students, Bethea started collecting books with the intention of donating them to kids in need.

This year, the Tempe resident has helped collect a record 8,000 donated books for youth in Tempe, Mesa and Phoenix.

“I live in Tempe and my kids go to school in the Tempe Elementary district. I get so much from this community, so I am just trying to give a little bit back to it,” said Bethea.

Before school ended in May, 500 Holdeman students in kindergarten through fifth grade lined up to climb aboard a colorful Valley Metro bus and receive a new book, smiling and laughing all the while. Some began reading right away while waiting for the rest of their classmates to make their way through the line, one by one.

“When we read, I like to know that the author took courage to write for us,” said third-grade student Jizae Henry.

“Mostly, I like to unlock the adventures in the book.”

Throughout the year, employees of Valley Metro and bus-service provider First Transit donated books to support education and local students through the Driving for Books initiative. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Tempe police and Tempe departments were among the additional community partners who helped donate books this year.

“I think getting books is cool because when we read more books, we get more knowledge, and when we get more knowledge, we have more things to share,” said fourth-grader Valencia Dixon.

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