Plenty of kindergarteners and elementary schoolers have fallen asleep on the bus ride home. It’s hard to blame them—they’ve just had a long day and the bus is pretty boring, but when your kiddo falls asleep on the bus it can throw bedtime routines all out of whack.

But one special education teacher/bus driver (yes, this hard-working mama has two jobs) has come up with an idea that keeps kids awake and engaged on the way home from school, and it is going viral.

Julie Callison’s “bucket of bus books” is a simple idea that is totally transforming the bus experience for her little riders. It’s worked so well the Arkansas Department of Education shared the story on its Facebook page, and parents across the nation have been sharing this great idea.

When the kids climb into Callison’s bus at the end of the day they get to pick a book from the bucket, something Callison put together with minimal effort and investment.

“The books on my bus were my child’s old books and other books I found at garage sales,” she tells Motherly, adding that any bus drivers or parents hoping to replicate her project should use “use books that [they] don’t care about too much because there will be wear and tear.”

The kids can choose books to read by themselves, but Callison also encourages older kids to read to the younger kids or have the younger kids read to them. Not only are the kids practicing their reading skills, but when they’re helping each other out they are also practicing kindness.

On Fridays, a special guest reader (typically a middle or high school student) sits up front and reads a book over the speaker system. According to Callison, the kids love this and look forward to the Friday afternoon bus ride.

Now that Callison’s book bucket has been in use for a few months, the kids have run through most of the books she brought on, and she’s brainstorming ideas to keep the books fresh and expand the program.

“One idea I had was to put a bucket of books on each school bus—our district has 13 buses—then rotate them around every couple weeks. This will keep the books fresh on each bus,” she tells Motherly.

That sounds like an awesome idea and one that could be replicated in other school districts.

The bus ride can be challenging for little kids, and parents are often worried not just about napping, but also about bullying and what kids might be exposed to when other children have phones or iPads on the bus. The book bucket changes the bus ride from something that can be kind of scary to a fun, educational extension of the school day.

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