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A Bus Filled With Books

Magic Tree House

Mary Pope Osborne, author of the popular early chapter book series, The Magic Tree House, is making a big difference in the lives of children. After scheduling the fall 2012 debut of the newest Magic Tree House musical, A Night in New Orleans, at the Newark Performing Arts Center, she learned that 62% of Newark, NJ third graders didn't read at grade level. (That's 62% with dismal academic futures.) So, Osborne decided to give generously.  

Osborne gave a 28-book Magic Tree House box set to each of the 4,300 third graders in Newark, NJ. Which, if you do the math, is over 120,000 books, delivered to children last week. 

“I want kids to use these books to read for fun, read for joy, discover that you can escape the limitations of your surroundings though books,” Osborne told me earlier today during our phone call.

(Amen to that!)

Osborne, her husband, Will, and Meredith Vieira rode the special Magic Tree House bus, among boxes of books from distributor, First Book, to personally deliver the books to five Newark elementary schools. “We arrived to signs and balloons and cheering. It was fabulous. I got to literally embrace kids; they all piled on me,” she recounts.

I love that Osborne told the teachers, “This is not for a test, and nothing is required. Just have fun reading and learning.”

(I didn’t whoop into the phone; I restrained myself.)

Along with the gift of books, Osborne provided another gift if any teacher wants to receive it-- free curriculum for the books with grade level appropriate lesson plans and ties to standards. Free. “I want to help educators,” Osborne explained.

(Don't you just love her?) 

Magic Tree House books inspire kids to read; teachers have been telling Osborne this for the last 20 years. I know it from personal experience. My oldest daughter resisted reading. Undaunted, I let her listen to books them instead of read them . . . The Magic Tree House series were her favorite audio books. Once I turned on the story, my daughter would be mesmerized. She might play quietly with her toys while listening but she was engaged for the entire story, often choosing to play it again. Once she discovered the compelling nature of story, she wanted more and it eventually led to books. All thanks to The Magic Tree House. 

Osborne hoped that “if [the gift of books] doesn’t get a kid reading because he can’t read them yet, maybe, at the very least, it will get him wanting to read. Even if [the joy of reading] just happens for 10 kids, . . . if they just discovered that there this whole way of being in the world that they hadn’t know before, that would be a dream come true. That is the goal.”

(She had me at free books for kids . . . Sob.) 

. . .

Stay tuned because next fall, the Newark third graders will get to see the Magic Tree House musical based on the 42nd book, A Good Night for Ghosts. I bet they'll be big fans by then, don't you think? And, watch for book #49: A Perfect Time for Pandas, coming in July 2012!

Do your kids love the Magic Tree House books as much as mine?