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“Books on wheels” spread the joy of reading

Since the printed word came into being, people have been promoting literacy one way or another. An early way of doing so was via bookmobile. The first “books on wheels” were developed in the 1800’s in England as a way to get books to rural areas far away from city or town libraries.

I remember waiting with barely-contained excitement each week for our local bookmobile “Little Chief” to drive up to my parents’ grocery story. Being the only business in our small bayside community, we were a natural location for the bookmobile to offer its weighty words and bright, shiny covers to patrons.

I’m sure Little Chief was one of the reasons I became an avid reader. I devoured my books each week so I could experience the joy of choosing new ones the next week.

Despite the internet and the e-book revolution, the bookmobile still exists in our county. I passed the big, purple behemoth the other day and had an instant flashback to those early days of learning to love to read. The adventures of Huck Finn, the Swiss Family Robinson, and the Lone Ranger echoed my own adventures as I discovered the ample forests of my childhood. The bookmobile was my bat mobile where all kinds of adventures awaited me each week.

Bookmobiles are still used in many countries and some are run without a vehicle. Examples include:

  • A camel library service in Kenya
  • A library ship in parts of Norway
  • Elephant libraries in Thailand
  • Donkey-drawn wagons in Zimbabwe and Columbia

While ways of promoting literacy may evolve—such as the Little Free Libraries popping up around the world—we will always owe a debt of gratitude to our bookmobiles and their drivers for starting us on the right path (or is that the right side of the road?)

*Photo courtesy of

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