‘Curiosity Cruisers’: Mobile libraries bring the power of reading, STEM programming to underserved children

The “super library on wheels,” made possible thanks to a generous grant from Houston-based energy company Oxy, will join a fleet of three existing Curiosity Cruisers. (Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation)

HOUSTON – The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation) and its Ladies for Literacy Guild announced on Wednesday the donation of a fourth Curiosity Cruiser to Harris County Public Library, which will hit the streets in October.

The “super library on wheels,” made possible thanks to a generous grant from Houston-based energy company Oxy, will join a fleet of three existing Curiosity Cruisers.

“The value of public-private partnerships in providing solutions to some of our city’s most pressing challenges, such as the educational achievement gap, cannot be underscored,” said Dr. Julie Finck, President and CEO of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. “We are grateful to Oxy, Crown Castle, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and PwC for investing so generously to help us increase equity of educational opportunity and outcomes for underserved children across Harris County through the Curiosity Cruiser mobile library initiative.”

The “super library on wheels,” made possible thanks to a generous grant from Houston-based energy company Oxy, will join a fleet of three existing Curiosity Cruisers. (KPRC)

“The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is an exceptional organization, and it is so gratifying to contribute to its mission and help lift up the communities in our great city by giving children the chance to fall in love with reading and learning,” said Yanni Charalombous, Oxy’s Chief Information Officer. “Oxy is proud to provide the fourth vehicle in the Curiosity Cruiser fleet and support educational activities outside of school in an effort to help close the learning gap.”

The donation was commemorated with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Julia C. Hester House with Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis represented by his wife, Licia Green Ellis, leadership from the Foundation, the Ladies for Literacy Guild, Harris County Public Library, Oxy, Crown Castle, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, PwC, along with the Curiosity Cruiser’s signature mascots, Owlbotron and Northtale. A group of nearly 50 children of Greater Fifth Ward boarded the new Curiosity Cruiser to select a new book and engaged in several hands-on STEM programs.

The “super library on wheels,” made possible thanks to a generous grant from Houston-based energy company Oxy, will join a fleet of three existing Curiosity Cruisers. (Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation)

“Since Harris County Public Library partnered with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation Ladies for Literacy Guild in 2017, we have been able to distribute over 69,000 books to over 55,000 youth throughout Harris County,” said Edward Melton, Director, Harris County Public Library. “We have been able to increase access to books, reading and learning to promote literacy and engagement in STEM activities. The impact of this program is immeasurable as we develop a generation of lifelong learners. It is humbling as well as gratifying to share these resources with the Harris County community.”

The Curiosity Cruiser mobile libraries are outfitted with state-of-the-art technology, including 3-D printers, laptops, and iPads, books and a variety of hands-on educational kits and materials. Children will receive access to weekly STEM programming, including robotics, coding, artificial intelligence, circuitry, 3D printing, and books to build their home libraries. Curiosity Cruisers take programming directly to children in their neighborhoods to break the barriers to accessibility for underserved families.

The “super library on wheels,” made possible thanks to a generous grant from Houston-based energy company Oxy, will join a fleet of three existing Curiosity Cruisers. (Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation)

Teaching that “Reading is Your Superpower,” the Curiosity Cruisers travel with two mascots, Owlbotron (owl) and Northtale (fox). The superheroes are a fighting-for-literacy duo who help inspire and engage children to foster a lifetime love of reading and prepare them for a brighter future. Transformed by the power of literacy, Owlbotron seeks to bring knowledge and power into children’s lives, while Northtale, librarian by day and superhero through and through, is dedicated to equipping children with the tools they need to reach their full potential.

More information about the Curiosity Cruiser can be found at www.CuriosityCruiser.com.