Nick and Royal Hit Cesar Chavez Elementary on the Book Bus

When the fourth-graders from Cesar Chavez Elementary in southeast Oklahoma City started piling on the Rolling Thunder Book Bus on Thursday afternoon, Nick Collison and Royal Ivey found that some things haven’t changed from when they were that age.

The 100 students, each of whom had an opportunity to pick out a book to take home, by and large knew what they were after when they walked on the bus, and that included some titles familiar to the two Thunder players.

“I read ‘Goosebumps,’ I remember – a lot of kids are picking those out today,” Collison said.

Collison and Ivey smiled as student after student headed straight to the same section of the bus, looking for those scary stories.

“I was just ecstatic that they were enthused about the books, more so than us,” added Ivey.

Make no mistake – the kids were plenty excited about interacting with the players, according to Karen Slitzker, one of the fourth-grade teachers.

The students had been “thrilled” about the Book Bus visit, she said. “We kind of kept it a secret up until a couple of days ago … This afternoon rolled around, and they just couldn’t hold themselves back.

“This is a great way to get them motivated to read. Meeting the Thunder players, of course, helps,” she smiled.

The players agreed that the Book Bus provides a unique approach to engage kids in reading.

“I think it’s a real good idea,” Ivey said. “I had a great time interacting with the kids … Education is my forte, that’s my passion.”

Collison added, “It’s a fun way to give kids books, which is the most important thing … I think it’s really big to try to encourage kids to read. It’s a fundamental skill – I think if kids can be good at it, it’s really going to change the rest of their schooling and how well they’re able to do.”

The two players handed out Thunder bracelets and bookmarks, gave high-fives and handshakes, and talked to the students about what they were reading, but both experienced a little trouble fitting their basketball-sized frames into a kid-sized bus.

Ivey, at 6’4, managed to find ways to lean and stoop to keep at kid-level, but the 6’10 Collison finally found it easiest to talk with the kids from outside the back of the bus.

“You know, the Book Bus is great for the fourth-graders, but for me I don’t fit perfectly,” he quipped. “But it’s a really cool thing.”

Overall, the players seemed to enjoy the experience just as much as the students.

“It was just a great experience for the kids and myself,” Ivey added.

The Rolling Thunder Book Bus, presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company, visits schools and community programs throughout the metro area. Since 2009, the Thunder has distributed nearly 50,000 free books through the Book Bus program as a part of the team’s ongoing commitment to education and literacy. For more information on this program, please visit our Book Bus page.