‘Gus the Bus’ brings reading to preschoolers

It may be one of the few times children are excited to see a school bus coming down the road.

Garfield County Re-2 School District has outfitted an old bus, dubbed “Gus the Bus,” to carry early-childhood books and toys to children who eventually will attend Wamsley and Highland elementary schools in Rifle. The program, designed to assist children’s literacy development, was launched at the end of October and serves 16 families each week.

“This is helping kids get prepared for schools,” said Cindy Gray, early childhood development coordinator for the district.

“The kids get really excited and are always happy to see the bus.”

The bus is loaded with enough backpacks for 40 families, Gray said, and makes the rounds to children Thursday mornings. Kids 3 to 5 years old take backpacks with educational toys and books to read, she said, and give the backpacks back on Tuesday.

“They basically get to keep them for a long weekend,” she said.

Teachers on the bus also do story-time readings with the kids at each stop, Gray said, and offer parents tips on how to engage their children with the toys to assist in areas such as color recognition and number counting.

Gray said she has a bilingual assistant, Alma Puga, to assist Spanish-speaking families.

Many of the students served by Gus the Bus are coming from home situations that do not prepare them well for kindergarten, Gray said, and pre-kindergarten wait lists in Rifle are too long to address every family.

Gray said she got the idea to include toys with the backpacks from home visits of special-education students who did not have adequate toys to play with.

Gus the Bus is a “work in progress,” Gray said, but she hopes high school students will paint the outside of the bus as an art project.

The district will wait to see how successful the program is before expanding it to other schools, she said.


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