“When parents put their 4-year-old on the bus for the first time, they are mighty concerned about what they will learn,” says Southern Door bus driver Ted Chaudoir. “On the bus, I teach courteousness, patience, manners and kindness. It’s not part of my job description to teach them literacy, but now it’s my passion to help.”
Chaudoir started his Books for the Bus program by simply placing a cardboard box full of his daughter’s old books on his bus. He encouraged children to choose a book when they boarded the bus and sit quietly to read. When he saw how reading created a calm, safe and productive environment for students—some who rode the bus for nearly an hour to school—he knew he was on to something.
Soon, Chaudoir established a mentorship program on his bus, pairing older students with younger students to help them read. He partnered with the district reading specialist to find more books and began expanding the program to other buses in his fleet. He found a local seamstress to make slip covers for bus seats that would hold the books, ensuring student safety.
The Forward Together Award helped make the program expansion possible. Now, all 18 buses in Chaudoir’s fleet have Books for the Bus, and each bus has slip covers on their seats.
“As a support staff person, you don’t come to the job thinking ‘I’m going to be an educator,’” says Chaudoir. “But soon you realize that everything you say, everything you do, really matters.”