At the Snohomish Mobile Home Park, a 2-year-old named Lia is thrilled with her new “Elmo & Friends” book, an offering from the Book Cafe. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

At the Snohomish Mobile Home Park, a 2-year-old named Lia is thrilled with her new “Elmo & Friends” book, an offering from the Book Cafe. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Book Cafe feeds young minds at Snohomish mobile home parks

What began as one librarian’s volunteer summer effort has turned into a school district program.

Eight-year-old twins Eva and Owen Wilkinson were right on time to meet the Book Cafe, a Snohomish School District bookmobile that makes weekly summertime stops at the Plantation mobile home park.

Where was it? Where was the big green bookmobile that rolls up Tuesday mornings?

As they waited with their mom, Shannon Wilkinson, a smaller school district van pulled in the driveway. Out popped Rebekah Fox and Kim Waltz, familiar faces to kids using the Book Cafe this summer.

Fox teaches kindergarten at Cascade View Elementary. Waltz is a Lake Stevens district aide who works with special education students. Their summer gig, on Mondays and Tuesdays, is handing out books at Snohomish-area mobile home parks, the Snohomish Boys & Girls Club and the Snohomish Aquatic Center. The seasonal program ends next Tuesday.

Children large and small came from every direction of the Snohomish Mobile Home Park Tuesday, when the Book Cafe showed up. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Children large and small came from every direction of the Snohomish Mobile Home Park Tuesday, when the Book Cafe showed up. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Despite a faulty water pump on the bookmobile Tuesday, books arrived — just a few minutes late.

“I like ‘Dog Man,’ ” said Owen, who attends Riverview Elementary with his sister. The “Dog Man” books are written by Dav Pilkey, creator of the popular “Captain Underpants” series.

“I can’t go to the library,” said Wilkinson, 39, who was in a mobility chair Tuesday.

The Book Cafe is the brainchild of Jenny Granger. Now Centennial Middle School’s librarian, from 1994 to 2017 she was at Emerson Elementary in Snohomish. As librarian there, Granger saw children who had no books at home. And teachers commonly see a “summer slide” in reading skills, she said.

Rebekah Fox appears to find a good match between a young boy and a book Tuesday during the Book Cafe’s stop at the Snohomish Mobile Home Park. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Rebekah Fox appears to find a good match between a young boy and a book Tuesday during the Book Cafe’s stop at the Snohomish Mobile Home Park. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

In 2012, Granger talked her Emerson principal into opening the school library for a few hours a week during the summer. Few kids came, she said. Rather than bringing kids to the books, she wanted to take books to where children live.

By 2013, as a summer volunteer, Granger was using a 1970s van to haul books to mobile home parks and other places kids gathered. In 2014, she loaded books into an old yellow school bus the district let her use. Some Book Cafe stops are at places that also serve subsidized summer meals for kids.

And in 2015, Granger received national recognition as a LifeChanger of the Year. The award is a program of the National Life Group, a company offering financial services for educators.

At Plantation mobile home park Tuesday, Book Cafe staff Kim Waltz (left) and Rebekah Fox (at right) select and show books to 8-year-old twins, Owen and Eva Wilkinson and their mom, Shannon. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

At Plantation mobile home park Tuesday, Book Cafe staff Kim Waltz (left) and Rebekah Fox (at right) select and show books to 8-year-old twins, Owen and Eva Wilkinson and their mom, Shannon. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Today, the Book Cafe is supported by the Snohomish district and grants, about $1,500 per year, from the nonprofit Snohomish Education Foundation. Kristin Foley, a district spokeswoman, said the bookmobile was purchased at an auction in 2015 for $19,200. Granger said it was once the Everett Public Library’s bookmobile. Due to a budget cut, Everett ended bookmobile service in 2014.

Now the Book Cafe has paid staffers — Fox the teacher and Waltz the driver. Granger is the program’s coordinator.

It’s not a check-out and return system. Children may keep the books, many of them donated and some no longer used in school libraries. Kids are encouraged to “find those books you love and keep them,” Granger said. “When they’re ready to be done with them, it’s a really nice book recycling program.”

Granger estimated that 100 to 150 children are given books each time the Book Cafe goes out for a day — there’s a need for at least 300 books a week.

“One of the big surprises, we didn’t think of the little, little guys — the sisters and brothers,” Granger said.

There’s a big turnout as the Book Cafe makes its Tuesday stop at the Circle H Mobile Home Park in Snohomish. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

There’s a big turnout as the Book Cafe makes its Tuesday stop at the Circle H Mobile Home Park in Snohomish. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

At the Snohomish Mobile Home Park, a 2-year-old named Lia held tightly to an “Elmo & Friends” book with one hand while holding on to her 12-year-old sister, Roseli, with the other.

Flipping through books in bins marked by category — popular titles, sports, science and picture books — children searched for favorites. “Star Wars” and “Pete the Cat” books are among top requests.

When a 12-year-old at the Circle H Mobile Home Park began to walk away with a “Molly Moon” book, Fox called him back to hand him one more. “You might as well read the whole series,” she said. Later, Fox said the Book Cafe is “the best summer job in the world.”

Book Cafe feeds young minds at Snohomish mobile home parks

There can be reluctant customers, especially middle-school boys, Granger said. As a boy at the Snohomish Mobile Home Park began to leave without a book, Fox pulled more titles from a bin and said, “Now sir, could I tempt you with one of these?” Eventually, he took a book.

As an alternative to goodbye, Granger called out: “You’ve got to read before you get to school. Your brain will hurt if you don’t.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Book Cafe

The Book Cafe, a Snohomish School District bookmobile serving several Snohomish sites during the summer, continues through Tuesday.

Donations of new or gently used books for children and teens may be dropped off at the district office, 1601 Avenue D, Snohomish, or at Snohomish schools (during school hours).

Information: www.sno.wednet.edu/Page/2640

Talk to us

More in Local News

Epic Ford on the corner of 52nd Street and Evergreen Way in Everett is closed. The dealership has been in business for more than 50 years. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
After 50 years, Everett’s Epic Ford dealership closes shop

It opened in 1971, when gas guzzling muscle cars like the Ford Mustang still ruled the road.

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

Marysville
Smokey Point Boulevard stretch closed for crash investigation

The road was closed between 136th Street NE and 152nd Street NE after a possibly fatal collision.

The Mountain Loop Highway between Darrington and Granite Falls remains closed beyond Barlow Pass. (Snohomish County)
Oops, Mountain Loop Highway only partly open

A miscommunication led Snohomish County to misstate how much of the road is open.

Monroe High School with (inset) a Facebook video screenshot from Nov. 10, 2021, which showed a white student repeatedly using racial slurs in a confrontation with a Black student.
‘It makes me angry’: Black students in Monroe report persistent racism

“Please help stop this racism,” a first-grade student told the Monroe school board Monday. Other kids reported racist slurs.

Destiny Conner, 13, takes tags off of clothing at the new Volunteers for America storefront on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At Sultan’s only thrift store, teens learn teamwork, job skills

Teens with the Sky Valley Youth Coalition “stepped up and created the store” on Main Street.

Joshua Freed
Ex-Bothell mayor accused of misleading real estate investors

One Snohomish couple sued Joshua Freed after losing a $300,000 investment in a development project.

Most of Compass Health’s clinical employees at the Marysville, Monroe and Snohomish sites will transfer to its Everett locations. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Lawsuit blames counselor’s ‘unethical’ relationship for Marysville man’s death

Joshua Klick was referred to a counselor at Compass Health. Two years later he was shot and killed.

Doug Ewing looks out over a small section of the Snohomish River that he has been keeping clean for the last ten years on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Oscar Hoover Water Access Site in Snohomish, Washington. Ewing scours the shorelines and dives into the depths of the river in search of trash left by visitors, and has removed 59 truckloads of litter from the quarter-mile stretch over the past decade. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Diving for trash in Snohomish River, biologist fills 59 pickup beds

At Thomas’ Eddy, Doug Ewing estimates he has collected 3,000 pounds of lead fishing weights. And that’s just one spot.

Most Read