It’s amazing to me the drive that a person can have to follow their heart and open it up to the world. When something moves you so much you make it your life mission to give that same feeling to others. I first learned about Jennifer Frances from the Citgo Fueling Good campaign. She won their program and now Citgo fuels Bess the Book Bus as she travels around the country. I wish I had the drive that Jennifer Frances has for her passion of reading. In 2002 Frances cashed in her 401K to follow that dream and started Bess the Book Bus. A mobile literacy outreach program that travels across the country providing free books to underprivileged children in schools, shelters and community organizations.
Bess the Book buss is named after Frances’s Nana, Nana Bess. Which she called her Nana Bus. Frances’s tell me that Nana Bess was the main inspiration behind her program. She also adds that, “My mom ALWAYS read me bedtime stories and my dad made up stories for me. He still does. I read a lot of Little Golden Books and Curious George. And Judy Blume. When I was 11, I started reading Stephen King. He is still a favorite.” We read stories to JaMonkey every night before bed to the point that she has them memorized. She can now recite books to us no matter where we are.
I asked Frances about the ways that she gets the books for her program aside from book drives like the one we are holding. She explained, “We work a lot with First Book and also with Capstone Publishers and Townsend Press. We have also worked with Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Candlewick Press in the past.”
I imagine that after a visit from Bess the Book Bus there are a lot of happy children. Frances told me that “We get great thank you letters and drawings. Last month we got some in braille as a thank you for books we donated to be brailled for some of our kids. I could email you some of the letters. They make me laugh and cry.”
Mercedes Benz has donated a Splinter to help book drop offs around the country. She also has fantastic sponsors backing her like Target, Levi’s, First Book, Transitions, VSP and many more.
My final question for Frances was why she decided to partner with Transition’s Optical and VSP Vision Care for this book drive. She explained, “Transition’s Optical and VSP Vision Care have supported Bess the Book Bus since 2009 when they surprised us on the Early Show. It has been a magnificent partnership that has allowed thousands of our kids across the USA to have the gift of healthy sight and tens of thousands to experience the joy of owning new books. I would do anything for them. Anything. We are a team.”
I want to thank Jennifer Frances for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions and tell me more about her journey of following her passion. I commend her for being so amazing to all those kids.
Please visit www.bessthebookbus.org to donate to her amazing cause.
Make sure to support the Book Drive that I am helping to spread the word about! Read all about it here.