2018-02-13 / Front Page

MSAD 75’s Don Sanders ‘driving’ kids toward books

BY CHRIS QUATTRUCCI
Times Record Staff


DON SANDERS received the Sarah Whitten Award for the Bus Book Bag program. 
PHOTO COURTESY OF TOPSHAM PUBLIC LIBRARY DON SANDERS received the Sarah Whitten Award for the Bus Book Bag program. PHOTO COURTESY OF TOPSHAM PUBLIC LIBRARY TOPSHAM

A Maine School Administrative District 75 bus driver has been honored by Topsham Public Library for starting a reading program for kids.

Don Sanders found a way to engage students and get them reading while on his bus — starting the Bus Book Bag program.

Last Friday, he was recognized for his initiative with the 2018 Sarah Whitten Award, which the Topsham Public Library began giving in 2015 to recognize contributions to the library and community. The award is named in honor of Sarah Whitten, who donated her family home to the library in 1941.

“Don is a perfect recipient for this award,” the library said in a press release. “He identified a way in which he could enrich the lives of kids on his bus and took a proactive approach in making it happen.”

Sanders started the program by bringing a handful of his own books on his bus for kids to read during the morning and afternoon commute to school. In addition to lowering noise levels during the ride, he noticed students bonding over the books, with older students helping mentor their younger fellow riders.

He then reached out to fellow community members as his riders quickly went through his collection of books. When that wasn’t enough to meet demand, Sanders connected with the Topsham Public Library and that’s when the Bus Book Bag program really took off.

The library helped supply Don with the additional books he needed, putting the books in decorated canvas bags to be shared on the bus. The Bus Book Bag program has flourished since then.

“Thanks to continued community support and grants, it has transformed into a mobile literacy program that now serves more than 650 students on 13 of the district’s 30 buses and engage students in the power of storytelling.” the press release said.

“It started with seven bags, and slowly more bus drivers are coming on board,” said TPL Assistant Director Cyndi Burne. “It’s really taken off.”

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