Rating: 5 stars   48 reviews


2316 E. 3rd Ave Tampa FL 33605 USA


Bess the Book Bus helps to close the literacy gap created by poverty by building home libraries and excitement for reading in over 25 states across the USA each year. We visit Head Starts, schools, after-school programs and community centers where we read aloud to our kids and give them the opportunity to choose their own new books. We build home libraries and a love for reading in our most underserved communities by making the joy of book ownership a reality for our kids. Bess the Book Bus volunteers and board members envision our hometown of Tampa Bay as one where all of our children have access to the basic resources they need to be successful in school and later in life.


Bess has given away over 500,000 books in 48 states.

Target demographics:

Bess the Book Bus is building home libraries and a love for reading across the USA.

Direct beneficiaries per year:

25,000+ kids in over 100 towns across the USA.

Geographic areas served:

Bess travels into schools and community centers in underserved neighborhoods across the USA conducting read-alouds and letting our children choose new books to take home and keep. Bess partners with school districts, Head Start facilities, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and community action groups with the mission of elevating and inspiring the imagination of children while giving them access to book ownership.


Some examples of our 2015/2016 outreach include: BBB partnered with CITGO's Fueling Education and 101.5 Miguel Show's Book Adventures at four area schools. Each student received new books to take home and keep. Holly and Miguel from 101.5 read to the kids and CITGO provided each school with a $1,000 grant. Bess' partnership with the Rays allowed us to give all 1812 School District of Hillsborough County Head Start program students two new books to take home and many of the students received three books. Bess worked with Pi Beta Phi to deliver 1,000 books to local Title 1 Schools as part of their Day of Service. Bess worked with Altrusa International Tampa Bay, the Spurlino Foundation and Publix Super Markets Charities to give books the 21st Century iClass Program at seven schools (Maximo, Melrose, New Heights, Fairmount Park, Campbell Park, North Shore and Lakewood Elementary). These are the schools listed in the Failure Factories articles in the Tampa Bay Times. Bess made 3+ visits to each school site iClass and adjacent YMCA or R’Clubs throughout the year, building home libraries and generating excitement for reading. Bess was was recognized by 21st Century iClass at the Pinellas County Schools annual volunteer recognition breakfast for this collaboration. Bess worked with Florida Impact, a statewide anti-hunger organization focusing on increasing participation in child nutrition programs. Bess made repeat visits at their Hillsborough County BreakSpot sites providing free books to the families attending the lunches.

2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit
Write a Review
Invite Reviews Share This Nonprofit

More Info

(813) 545-6321

Promote This Nonprofit

GreatNonprofits badges allow you to raise awareness of your favorite nonprofits on your own web sites!

Review this charity on


Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I am proud to be on the board of Bess the Book Bus. Bess is a non-profit mobile literacy outreach dedicated to getting books into the households of children who would otherwise go without. There is ample research that shows kids without books in the home are significantly more likely to spend their entire lives below the poverty line. This organization is staffed by ONE person, the visionary and founder, Jennifer Frances. Jennifer has build this organization based on a strong desire to build a love of reading in children similar to the one her grandmother, Bess, gave to her. Bess is based in Tampa, FL but is on the road across the United States annually. In 2011 she placed over 50,000 books into the hands of children in over 20 states. Her budget is minimal and focuses on maintaining the bus and keeping it fueled (the major expense). When you factor in the in-kind book donations along with those purchased, Bess distributed over $2M in product last year. It is difficult to really explain the magical quality that Bess has in these kids' lives... they light up when the bus pulls up and they are allowed to climb aboard and select their very own book. Jennifer also conducts 'read alouds' with the kids as part of her program... and the kids love it because she approaches her reading from the perspective of the child that is listening... she really understands them. You can experience Bess by going to her web site: This is one organization that you can have confidence is focused on the bottom line... helping children explore the world between the covers of a book.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I attended a wonderful event at a local elementary school celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday. This particular event was actually a book drive where children donated books to be passed along to other children who need them. It was deeply moving. I also have seen Bess in action at back to school events where kids are given books along with necessary school supplies that they would otherwise not have to support their educational needs.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Find additional streams of income to help keep Bess confidently on the road. Bess is a Dodge Sprinter and books are heavy. The current Bess is long in the tooth and therefore costing more to maintain than what would be spent on a new vehicle. Bess needs more sponsors to help give her a reliable income to support the purchase of a new vehicle and to keep the organization running without significant financial stress.

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?


How much of an impact do you think this organization has?


Will you tell others about this organization?


When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


How did you learn about this organization?

I've been a friend of the founder, Jennifer Frances, since high school and have had the privilege of watching her tireless efforts to build this organization from an idea into a program that genuinely gives joy to children who unfortunately do not experience enough of that emotion in their young lives.

What is this organization's top short-term priority?

Replacing the vehicle. Bess needs a new Mercedes Sprinter 3500 fitted with auxiliary air conditioning, tow package and built out with book shelving. The estimated cost is @ $60,000.00

What is its top priority in the long run?

Additional stable funding sources to support car payments, maintenance and fuel expenses.

Flag review