James Madison University

The History of the Gus Bus:

In early 2004, Pat Kennedy and a group of fellow early childhood educators decided to take action and try to meet a need that they noticed in our community. It had come to their attention that 50% of the children entering kindergarten were unprepared. The literacy levels needed to be raised.

This hatched the idea for a “reading road show,” a way that literacy could be brought to children who might otherwise have limited access to books. This program would take the form of a bookmobile named “The Gus Bus.”

Mrs. Kennedy worked with the schools and the local police department of Harrisonburg to determine the best neighborhoods to take the Gus Bus to. Now, the Gus Bus has a route through Harrisonburg, Rockingham, and Page county. The bus goes to apartment complexes and neighborhoods to allow kids the opportunity to check out books, participate in lessons and hear stories.

The Impact of the Gus Bus

Nancy Resendiz Mejia has been a part of the Reading Road Show program since she was 11 years old.  She recalls the memory that, “My family went to renew my brother’s passport at Thomas Harrison Middle School and the Gus Bus was parked outside. We passed by and I saw a lady inside reading to some kids and then later a family friend took us out to see the bus because we were all too curious about it.”  This was just the beginning of riding the Gus Bus for young Nancy.  Years later, she went on to become a volunteer while attending Blue Ridge Community College.  After volunteering for  while, she was then hired to work for the Gus Bus for 8 months.

She sums up her love for the Gus Bus by saying, “You won’t believe how good it feels when you see a kid outside of work that recognizes you, yells your name, and runs to hug you and introduces you to their family.”  Her current position is under the Shenandoah Valley Migrant Education Program, but she always remembers her days riding the Gus Bus.

Nancy has said that the most rewarding part of her time with the Gus Bus was seeing the children grow not only physically but educationally.  “When you notice that their reading is improving or that their English is getting a lot better than the first time they got on the bus, you get the most rewarding feeling because you know you’re doing something good for them.”