CINCINNATI — Most people wouldn’t expect books and bicycles to have anything in common. But this May, don’t be surprised if you see a parade of cyclists delivering thousands of books by bike to a local school. Created by a national organization based out of Nashville, Ride for Reading events take place all over the country, giving children books in an effort to reduce the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students.
On Friday, May 11, 2018, WordPlay Cincy will partner with Spun Bicycles for Cincinnati’s sixth annual Ride for Reading. By the end of this year's event, they will have delivered more than 12,000 books to local children since 2013.
“This is our sixth book delivery in Cincinnati, and I look forward to it so much every year,” Judi LoPresti, owner of Spun Bicycles, said. “Every year I cry my eyes out, and every year the event gets better and better.”
WordPlay Executive Director Libby Hunter agrees. “Ride for Reading is one of my all-time favorite things that I’ve ever been a part of,” Hunter said. “Judi participated in a Ride for Reading event out west in 2012, and came home so pumped up about it. There was no choice—we had to do it! It’s incredible how much it’s grown in that time.”
This year, cyclists will deliver 5,500 books to more than 540 children at the Academy of World Languages in Evanston. Volunteers start the day at the Coffee Emporium warehouse on Walnut Street, where the thousands of donated books are stored. Cyclists will load up their bikes with books and pedal to the school, where more volunteers will be waiting to hand out books to the students.
“We want to give children every chance to grow as readers, and Ride for Reading is an innovative, super-fun way to do that,” Hunter said. “The kids scream and cheer for the bike delivery parade like it’s a pop concert—elevating a book giveaway to that level of excitement is a wonderful thing. I am deeply indebted to all who make this such a memorable experience for the kids each year.”
It is indeed a team effort, involving many local partnerships to make the event a success. Books are collected through individual donations as well as from Adopt a Book (a long-term partner who donated 2,000 books this year) and Better World Books (who donated 1,200 books); nonprofit bike-sharing organization Red Bike supplies bicycles, cyclists, and a van to haul any extra books to the school; the Public Library of Cincinnati will provide book bags, as well as their mascot, Rufus the Reading Dog; and U.S. Bank and the University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing have assembled teams of volunteers to help hand out books.
“The kids are so stoked about the books and all the bicyclists who show up to help make the delivery a success,” LoPresti said. “Books and bikes and kids and cheers on all levels is so rad.”
Studies have shown that the presence of books in a home has a marked effect on children’s developing literacy; children who grow up in homes with at least 20 books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, and the most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income students is to increase their access to print. Often, however, low-income children lack books of their own, putting them at risk of falling behind in school.
“We gather enough donations so that each student can choose 10 books to take for their home library,” Hunter said. “When kids get to choose what they are reading, they become invested in the process and are much more likely to follow through with reading their books, growing the resiliency to keep trying new and more challenging books, and seeking other genres that they like.”
Anyone interested in volunteering to deliver and/or hand out books should contact WordPlay Executive Director Libby Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.