Book Bus Drops in on Cross Timbers

Patiently sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, the second graders at Cross Timbers Elementary in Edmond admired the blue, white and orange paint on the Thunder-themed bus outside of their school. When they walked on the bus one-by-one on Friday, their amazement only increased.

Awaiting the Thunder jersey and t-shirt-clad students inside the Rolling Thunder Book Bus were Thunder players Reggie Jackson and Hasheem Thabeet, along with rows and rows of children’s books. In order to fit in the converted school bus, the 7-foot-3 Tanzanian Center sat in a folding chair, greeting each student with his deep, booming voice while handing them a wristband and a book mark. Sitting on the floor of the bus was Jackson, letting the students mingle around him as he assisted them in picking out a free book. As the second graders sifted through classics like Curious George and I Spy, Jackson reflected on his own childhood.

“It was definitely fun, seeing the new books and seeing the old ones, some of the ones I read back in the day,” Jackson said. “Seeing Berenstain Bears and the Magic School Bus brings back memories. But, I’m just happy to see these kids walk on the bus and have smiles on their faces and enjoy their time.”

Jackson and Thabeet made it a point of emphasis to ask the students how much they read and encouraged them to read their new book as soon as they got home. That effort truly resonated with Dawn Courtney, a second grade teacher at Cross Timbers, who was ecstatic that two role models came into her school to help her deliver the message of the importance of reading.

“It helps a lot because of when we talk about what you want to do when you grow up and how important reading is,” Courtney said. “The kids talk about the Thunder players all the time. Sports figures, I think need to get out there and do that and be positive role models. These kids look up to them, not just literally, but figuratively as well.”

The Book Bus, presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company, has made nearly 750 visits and distributed nearly 58,000 books to students throughout the Oklahoma City area over the past few years. It’s one of the many ways in which the Thunder tries to give back to the community that has welcomed the organization with open arms, supported the team in its endeavors and created one of the best home court advantages in the NBA.

“It’s very important (to give back), especially for how much they do for us,” Jackson said. “Everything they do for us every night packing the arena and just supporting us through thick and thin. I feel it’s important and a necessity for us to come back and give back to our community.”

As caught up with their teacher, it was clear that the second graders were still bubbling over with excitement from their interaction with Jackson and Thabeet as they peeked outside of their classroom door. For Cross Timbers and its kids, it was a visit that they won’t forget and hopefully, will be a great spark to influence each student to take reading and their education seriously.

“It was amazing,” Courtney said. “We love the Thunder and we like the way that Thunder cares. Our school has partnered with them in some endeavors this year. We love what they do and I love what it means to the kids to see the players and interact with them and they get a book!”