The idea for the Charlotte’s Web Children’s Library began in 1997 when the former mayor of Lompoc, Charlotte Benton (1923-2005), decided she wanted to donate her estate to the Lompoc Public Library to create a children’s library. Ms. Benton had a difficult childhood growing up in post-WWII Germany. The local children’s library was her favorite place where she felt safe and comforted and Ms. Benton wanted to share this feeling with the children of Lompoc.
The Bookmobile’s Mission
The bookmobile is a literacy classroom designed to be a welcoming and inviting place. The interior of the bus is decorated with images of characters and stories the children recognize, affirming their experience of what they have just read and what they want to read. It is a safe and comforting space by design, inspired by Charlotte Benton’s childhood experience.
How are Bookmobile Stops Chosen?
The bookmobile visits children in areas with the fewest number of resources and highest levels of need.
For schools and after-school programs, factors like chronic absenteeism, low school literacy scores, number of homeless and foster care students, number of low-income housing communities in the area, lowest median family income and the number of students who qualify for the free/reduced lunch program are taken into consideration.
For community stops, factors considered are lowest median family income, number of low-income housing communities in the area, areas not within walking distance (1-2 miles and/or lacking sidewalks) to a library branch, and areas without easy access to public transportation.
"The Fourth-Grade Slump"
Many of the children who visit the bookmobile have no experience with the library or with books and can be intimidated by something so unfamiliar. Other children who board the bookmobile read under their grade-level and sometimes under several grades.
If children are not proficient readers by fourth grade, they will fall behind. Teachers expect children to know how to read at this point and expect them to read to learn about other subjects, rather than just working on the skill of reading. This is when many children become disengaged in reading.
Not understanding what they have read becomes a snowball effect, causing problems down the road with things like job applications, car loans, and using health services for themselves and their families. Reading and reading comprehension skills empower children by giving them the skills they need to succeed and the bookmobile creates a fun and inclusive environment to offer positive experiences with reading and books.
Literacy & Prison
There’s a proven connection between not being able to read well by 4th grade and ending up in prison. Why? If you can’t understand what you are reading, you may not be able to fill out that job application/car loan/apartment lease/get health insurance. All of which can lead to economic isolation as well as social isolation.
- Over 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
- Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help.
- Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." (begintoread.com/research/literacystatistics.html)
Where Does the Bookmobile Go?
Afterschool ASES programs in partnership with the Lompoc YMCA and Boys & Girls Club of Lompoc. 60% of students enrolled in the ASES programs are below grade-level readers. (Lompoc YMCA, 2018)
Affordable Housing complexes in Lompoc in partnership with the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County. In 2017, the child poverty rate in Santa Barbara County was 19.3%. (census.gov)
The Bridge House, an emergency and transitional homeless shelter & The Marks House, a transitional homeless shelter - both house homeless families with children and are operated by Good Samaritan Shelter. In 2016, the rate of homeless public school students in Santa Barbara County was 14%. (KidsData.org, a division of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health)
Stops at public parks, events, fairs and other community events like parades.
- Lompoc’s geographic classification is rural and has a population of 43,542 with a poverty level of 20.8%. In comparison, the city of Santa Barbara has a poverty rate of 13.7%. The county of Santa Barbara has a poverty rate is 14.2% and the state of California’s average poverty rate is 13.3% (census.gov, 2017).
- 75.9% of Lompoc’s population of 25 years or older has graduated high school.
- 12.5% of Lompoc’s population of 25 years or older has a bachelor’s degree or higher (census.gov, 2013-2017).
- Lompoc has a crime rating of 45.2 in violent crime compared to the U.S. average which is 31.1 (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, ucr.fbi.gov, 2016).
- The city of Lompoc's public school system is the Lompoc Unified School District. Enrollment of all schools in the district is 9,722 with 68% considered socioeconomically disadvantaged.
- The district's average rating in English language arts, grades 3 through 8 is Low and chronic absenteeism of the district is 14.3%. In contrast, Santa Maria’s public schools have a Chronic Absenteeism rate of 6% (California School Dashboard, Fall 2017).
Chronic Absenteeism means children miss at least 10 days of school. When that happens, children fall behind and risk failing.
Charlotte's Web Bookmobile programs, activities, and practices shall be free from discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, national origin, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital or parental status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression; or on the basis of a person’s association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.