The School Zone: News


Just in time for curling up to read with their families during winter break, pre-K students at Tiger Trail and Panda Path Schools for Early Learning received backpacks containing books from Bess the Book Bus. Choruses of “thank you” rang out from the three- and four-year-olds lined up along the schools’ sidewalks after they received colorful backpacks filled with three books each. 

See a photo gallery here.

Bess the Book Bus is a mobile literacy outreach, supported by CITGO Petroleum Corporation, providing books to students across the country, and now even in Africa! The driver of the bus, Jennifer Frances, has been crisscrossing the U.S. with her van since 2003, handing out books at schools, hospitals and neighborhoods. CITGO came on as a corporate sponsor in 2009.

James Sullivan and Shannon Walsh from CITGO helped hand out the backpacks at two the pre-K centers and admired the new graphics featuring images from children’s books on the van designed by their company’s graphic designer.



Pigeon, a popular character from a series of books by Mo Willems, is located near the driver’s side of the van. Frances reports that she gets a lot of waves from kids as she goes down the road.  Families have even followed her for miles just to get a photo with Pigeon when the van comes to a stop – and sometimes books get donated right on the spot!

Sullivan helps with the logistics of Bess the Book Bus itinerary by mapping out routes and stops through 28 states this year. During the recent backpack distributions in SBISD a big smile showed that supporting literacy for kids is a highlight of his job as a project manager and corporate sponsorship liaison at CITGO.

“THIS is the reason I keep going to work,” joked Sullivan. “I am glad we figured out how to keep it going this year.” 

During past visits from Bess the Book Bus, students would pick out books during a walk through the van lined with shelves of books. Due to COVID-19, receiving books in backpacks was a safer solution. Extra bags were provided for distance learners to pick up prior to winter break.

On behalf of students at Tiger Trail and Panda Path, thank you CITGO and Jennifer Frances for supporting literacy, spreading the joy of reading and helping to grow home libraries. 

If you would like support literacy and donate to the Bess the Book Bus outreach, please visit this website


Submitted by Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications

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