Hawaii Literacy’s shiny new Bookmobile is on Waianae’s reading road again

Hawaii Literacy’s shiny new Bookmobile is on Waianae’s reading road again

Jade Eckardt

WAIANAE—Hawaii Literacy (HL) reintroduced the Bookmobile after the “classroom on wheels” was forced to stop operating when the vehicle was deemed unfixable earlier this year.

The nonprofit, which has been addressing family and adult literacy in Hawaii for nearly 30 years, held a blessing on Wednesday, November 17 to honor the new Bookmobile. Since its launch, the Bookmobile has been visited by over 1,000 different children in Hawaii each year who checked out over 15,000 books.

Hawaii Literacy has brought reading to children in the Waianae area since 2004 with two previous Bookmobiles. The first, a donated van, lasted two years and was replaced by another donated vehicle with over 200,000 miles on the engine when it began its run in 2007. The van lasted until April of this year when it could no longer run.

“It had major mechanical problems, it just died,” said Megan Naihe, a Hawaii Literacy coordinator. “We fundraised and received a huge monetary donation as well as donations from the community. There was a huge outpouring of community support, it was really neat to see the community come together.”

According to Naihe, community members and several businesses donated what amounted to $1,200 toward the program, and The Harry and Nee Chang Wong Foundation, donated $80,000 to purchase a new bus to serve the Leeward Coast.

“The new Bookmobile is really nice, and it will hopefully last for a very, very long time,” Naihe said. “I think its a lot of fun for the kids. Books being delivered by bus, like an ice cream truck.”

The Bookmobile currently serves six sites weekly, providing families on the Waianae Coast access to books, literacy related activities, and computers in an age where video games and cell phone apps have taken time away from reading. The Bookmobile visits the Boys and Girls Clubs of Waianae and Nanakuli, and the housing projects of Kauiokalani, Maili Land, and Ohana Ola O Kahumana I and II. Books for children, young adults, and adults are available for check out and laptop computers are available for the children and their caregivers to use.

The Bookmobile previously traveled to the Koolauloa area for a short time, but “It was too much at the time so we’re focusing on Waianae for now and we hope to expand,” Naihe explained.

A “library card” is not required for book check out. Each borrower registers with Hawaii Literacy so they can keep track of the ethnicity, gender, and age of the participants. Borrowers are supposed to return books the following week, but unlike libraries there are no fees if the books are returned late or not returned at all.

“The most important part of all of this to us is that books are getting in the homes and are being read,” Naihe said.

According to the 2009 Hawaii Literacy newsletter:

* Over 40 million Americans, about 15 percent of adults, read at or below a fifth grade level, far below the level needed to earn a living wage.

* 43 percent of Americans with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty. 70 percent of people with the lowest literacy skills have no full or part time job.

* Adult illiteracy costs society an estimated $225 billion each year in lost productivity, unrealized tax revenues, welfare, crime, poverty, and related social ills.

* About 70 percent of men and women in prison are functionally illiterate.

* Over 155 thousand adults in Hawaii, an estimated 16 percent, are functionally illiterate.

* The highest rate of illiteracy on Oahu is in the Kalihi-Paalama area at 32 percent, followed by Waianae at 25 percent.

Bookmobile schedule:

Waianae Boys and Girls Club, 1:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Nanakuli Boys and Girls Club, 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Kauiokalani, 4:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Maili Land, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Ohana ‘Ola I: 3:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Ohana ‘Ola II: 5:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

To volunteer or donate reading materials, contact Megan Naihe at (808) 225-5052 or email megan.naihe@HawaiiLiteracy.org.