MONROE, NC (WBTV) - Union County Public School District (UCPS) unveiled its Book Bus on Thursday.
It is filled with books that will engage students and help prevent the summer slide.
Research shows students can lose about a month's worth of learning they received during the school year if they do nothing academically over the summer.
Principals like the Book Bus. They say students can read books that interest them and there is no pressure after reading.
"It's not about a test all the time," Benton Heights Elementary School Principal Candice Boatright said. "It's about enjoying reading and enjoying the summer with a good book."
The community donated more than 9,600 books for the bus. The bus will travel around to the neediest communities to offer what some kids don't have at home, a book.
"In this part of Union County, we are hearing they don't have any or may have three to five books," UCPS Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan said.
The bus will be up and running going to different communities until August 14.
Students will be able to check out two books at a time. When they return the books to the bus, they can check out more.
Houlihan told the kids they don't have to worry about returning the books; He just wants students just to get on the bus and get a book and read.
"Someone asked me what would happen if a child didn't bring the book back," the Superintendent said. "I said I'd rather lose a book than lose a child."
Students are excited about the bus. They know the importance of reading and want to return to school not behind in their reading skills.
"I am supposed to be reading, not somebody supposed to be telling me to read," UCPS student Casey Sanchez said. "I am supposed to be in charge of myself reading."
The superintendent says over the past two years the district has spent about $2 million to improve literacy in the lower grades.
He believes the district has seen a return on its investment.
Test scores from 2016-2017 show that 70.4 percent of third graders are reading on grade level, but after third grade the reading scores drop a few percentage points. The superintendent wants to change that.
"Maybe when we get to our upper grades, and particularly to middle school," Houlihan said. "I don't think a lot of emphasis or attention has been on literacy. A lot of our teachers across the nation view literacy as a kindergarten through third grade issue. It is not. It is a K-12 lifetime issue."
Houlihan says soon the district will unveil a literacy plan for students in the upper grades. Students were so excited about the bus they say they will bring their friends the next time the bus rolls through their communities.
"I have a bunch of friends that really don't even like to read," UCPS Student Jayden Olden said. "Because they think that it's boring. It's really not boring."
This is something new for the district and it hopes to keep the bus around for years to come.
Forest Hills High School students did extensive interior work to the inside of the bus while students from Central Academy of Technology and Arts painted and designed the exterior of the bus.
For locations of the Book Bus click here.