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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Bess the Book Bus Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Libraries, Literacy, Primary & Elementary Schools, Remedial Reading & Encouragement, Special Education

Mission: 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.

Results: 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.

Programs: 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.

Community Stories

1 Story from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1 Leah9

Board Member

Rating: 5

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: bessthebookbus.org. 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.