Pay your fare and grab a book on Rochester's public buses

Bus rides in Rochester, N.Y., have become more literary lately.

Thanks to the "Books on Buses" program, all 250 of the city's public buses have been outfitted with racks full of children's books.

Officials at the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority generated the idea as a way to make bus rides more useful for kids. "We have hundreds of kids who ride buses every day on the way to day care, grocery shopping, or out seeing family, and there's really nothing for them to do," says Mark Aesch, chief of staff for the Transportation Authority. "We said, why don't we come up with something informative for kids to do, and create some decent family time."

On each bus, children or their parents may pick from a selection of between five and 10 books. The books are aimed at children from 4-year-olds to early teens. There are some in Spanish and French.

The Transportation Authority collected 50,000 books for the project – so many that the city's bus depot could nearly house a library, Aesch says.

More than 100 area schools, libraries, and national publishers donated books for the project. Students in Jean Long's third-grade class at the Fairbanks Road Elementary School in Churchville, N.Y., collected and catalogued 1,400 books in under three weeks. "They got a lot of civic value out of it and they thought it was a blast," Ms. Long says.

The books are replenished each night when buses are serviced. While signs request that children return a bookat the end of the ride, many often ask drivers whether they can take it with them.

"There are a lot worse things to happen than a family taking a book home and it not being returned," Aesch says.

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