OVER THREE THOUSAND brand-new paperbacks glimmered on the shelves of the Rolling Thunder Book Bus. The new book smell practically spilled out of the retractable door at the front of the bus. Hundreds of newly unboxed books from Scholastic’s Black History Month collection laid spread out along the counter for all to see. Each book donned the faces of prominent figures in black history: Frederick Douglass, Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King Jr., Booker T. Washington and so many more.
Sitting outside of Britton Elementary, 90 second graders waited patiently for their turn to make a selection on the magical bus. Adding to the magic of the day, Thunder guard Dennis Schröder was on board prepared to help the young troop find what they need.
“Do you have any Michael Jordan books?” one young student asked Schröder as he stepped into the bus
Schröder leaned over and picked up "Dream Big: Michael Jordan and the Pursuit of Excellence" and held it proudly to his chest with a grin to show the student that he had exactly what he was looking for.
Schröder moved from shelf to shelf, helping the students in their demure decision making. Each student was granted a chapter book of their choice along with a book on black history. Whether he was searching for puppy books or ninja novels, Schröder was willing to get on the floor to make it happen.
“Just to be with kids, it makes me happy,” said Schröder. “Being with them, seeing their smile it makes my day as well.”
Berna Johnson, a second-grade teacher at Britton wore all black with thin wired glasses and a black fedora covering all of her hair save a grey-painted bun at the nape of her neck. She celebrated the beginning of Black History Month by emulating the late civil rights hero, Rosa Parks for her students who referred to her throughout the day as Mrs. Parks. She helped conduct the large group of second graders ensuring they all got a chance to be on the bus.
“This will make them read more and more,” Johnson said. “Once they got their books, they sat outside and immediately opened their books up.”
Each child walked away with two books, one of which held a significant piece of back history within its pages. However, if Schröder were a second grader that day, both of his books would have been from the Black History Month collection and they would have been about two specific icons of black history.
“Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King for sure,” Schröder nodded. “It’s an inspiration what they did and what they’ve done for the world. I would’ve picked them two.”
“That’s the reason why you get books, to try to learn from everything. Especially those two, they did a lot for the community, for black people even just everybody being together. It’s great to learn it at such a young age.”
The kids at Britton Elementary will have that chance. According to Johnson, the experience on Monday helped the teachers just as much as it helped the students.
“It sure will help the teachers because we can always say ‘you know, Dennis Schröder was on the bus, he loves to read.’ That’s all it takes.”