As children and their guardians shuffled through a diverse selection of materials at the Seaside School District Bookmobile earlier this month, they had some assistance from 12-year-old Isair Leon-Mejia and 10-year-old Zander Leon-Mejia.

The boys, both students in Seaside, had tagged along with their mother, Daffne Mejia, a teaching assistant, to oversee the bookmobile during its weekly stops at Broadway Park and Cartwright Park.

Throughout the afternoon, the boys not only spoke with passersby and showed them which section of the table had the best books for their grade level, but they also made sure each child was offered a sticker and an Otter Pop to enjoy with their new reading material.

“They like to help out,” Mejia said, adding the boys themselves would also enjoy building a library over the summer with free books.

Mejia is one of several school district staff assisting with the bookmobile, which was introduced this summer as a way to use grant funding from the Oregon Department of Education. The funds were distributed to districts statewide for summer educational and recreational programs for students in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The school district’s bookmobile kicked off July 5 and will run through Sept. 2. Each week, the bookmobile spends from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays at the city park in Cannon Beach; from 1 to 2 p.m. at Broadway Park and 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. at Cartwright Park in Seaside on Wednesdays; and from 1 to 2 p.m. at Gearhart City Hall and from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Cullaby Lake Boat Ramp on Thursdays.

All children are welcome to stop by and select a book. There are materials tailored for every age group, from preschool to high school. Students also don’t have to attend a Seaside school in order to pick out a free book.

“With all the setbacks from COVID at the school, any chance kids can have to read a little more on their own will assist with their educational experience,” said James Downes, a teacher assistant at Pacific Ridge Elementary School, who helps run the bookmobile at the Gearhart locations.

Mejia was equally appreciative of what the bookmobile has to offer students this summer. When the school district asked for volunteers to help work the program, she enthusiastically signed up.

“This is a great way for our kids to want to learn and want to read over the summer,” she said.

Even if the material isn’t necessarily academic, reading in and of itself has numerous educational benefits. And it can also pique continued interest in learning new information.

“Anywhere that you start is a good start,” Mejia said.

Downes shared a similar sentiment about the importance of keeping students learning and engaged through reading over the summer.

“It builds their jargon, their vocabulary, helps them understand different ways of thinking and perspectives, and all of that blends into bigger-picture ideas,” he said.

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