Players Hop Aboard the Book Bus

Once the Book Bus got rolling – not literally – on Tuesday at Russell Dougherty Elementary in Edmond, the three Thunder players aboard quickly worked out a system for guiding students through the packed shelves.

Russell Westbrook sat in the driver’s seat, greeting the children and asking what kinds of books they liked. When they answered, he’d either send them toward Serge Ibaka, who was manning the sports section, or to Lazar Hayward, who, at the back of the bus, oversaw the rest of the fiction titles.

This kind of exchange was common:

Westbrook – “Lazar, we got a mystery!”

Hayward – “Mystery here!”

“It’s very important, definitely, at a young age to be able to read books, regardless of what type of book it is,” said Westbrook.

The three players may not have second careers as librarians in their future, but they certainly enjoyed the time with the kids on the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company.

The third-graders who boarded the bus had some trepidation at first. Their teachers had not told them about the players’ visit until they had finished their morning testing, and then sprung the surprise on them. A few children almost shook with anticipation and nerves as the players greeted them, but quickly became at ease when they turned their focus to the books.

“It’s a really good feeling just to sit here and talk to them, figure out what kind of books they like,” said Hayward, who spread out on the floor near the vehicle’s rear exit. “I’m comfortable because they make me comfortable.”

The only moment of discomfort Hayward experienced was when the bus engine started for a few minutes to run the air conditioning. Hayward played up some concern with Westbrook occupying the driver’s seat.

“I don’t know why y’all let him get in the driver’s seat,” he joked, loudly enough for his teammate to hear him. “He will get excited, and eventually the Book Bus will start moving when it’s not supposed to.”

The engine was turned back off, and the players found other ways to keep cool on the bus. Ibaka, standing 6’10, popped the front hatch in the roof of the vehicle and stuck his head out a few times for air.

“The players were so great to be personable with the students and just made them feel like they were special,” said Principal Paula Stafford. “The kids really liked that.”

Stafford noted that the day was about more than meeting the players, for staff and students alike.

“They love reading already, and it shows them that even people they look up to and respect support reading and how important that is.”

Presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company, the Rolling Thunder Book Bus visits schools and community programs throughout the Oklahoma City area, allowing children access to a free book. For more information on this program, please CLICK HERE.