Overheard on the Book Bus: 'This is Awesome'

It was one of those rare beautiful December days in Oklahoma City on Wednesday as the Rolling Thunder Book Bus pulled up to Hayes Elementary to visit their first-grade class. But the warm air and sunshine only helped to brighten the smiles on everyone’s faces and lift the existing excitement already in the air for the visit, which included 3,000 books, one bus and two Thunder players.

Principal Jae Strickland said the kids at the school had been looking forward to the Thunder visit for a while.

“They’re excited … to see a bus, with a hardwood floor, with books everywhere – their favorite books – and it’s free,” she said. “You get to take it home and you don’t have to return it to the library – so I think that that’s exciting.”

Add to that the fact that Thabo Sefolosha and Hasheem Thabeet were on hand to guide the kids through finding the perfect book to take home, and some kids might have been overwhelmed with the whole event.

But the Hayes first-graders handled themselves well, boarding the bus quietly and deliberatively selecting the book that they’d like to take home. They only let their excitement slip a few times, such as one child who, as he took in the scene on the bus, said in an excited whisper, “This is awesome!”

Sefolosha and Thabeet proved themselves up to the task of helping the kids navigate the broad book selection, even when some challenges presented themselves. The last child on the bus, for example, knew that he wanted to walk away with a Hot Wheels book, but couldn’t find one. Sefolosha and Thabeet both started rifling through the bookshelves, even pulling some other titles they thought might interest the young boy. Finally they came up with the Hot Wheels book and, with a couple of high-fives, sent the child off the bus happy.

“It was fun being with the kids, helping them pick out books and encouraging them to read,” said Sefolosha.

He also praised his teammate for how much he helped the kids, mildly teasing that Thabeet was “like a schoolteacher.”

Thabeet, who, in his first season with the Thunder, has already made a few trips aboard the Book Bus, said his favorite part of the bus visits is “just to see them happy.”

“(The students) actually get a chance to meet us, and, you know, they look up to us – and us supplying books to them makes them go and want to read,” he said.

Strickland noted that it’s not always easy for parents to get their children books of their own, so the Book Bus actually plays an important role in fostering a love of reading.

“Our parents do a really good job, but I think it’s an ongoing battle with the economy and of course the holidays (when kids) are wanting toys,” she said. “And so for them to be able to come on to the Book Bus this time of year and get a book is exciting, and we’re just excited to partner with (the Thunder) and have the opportunity.”