The Book Bus Delivers

The "Pajama Mama" is on a mission to spread the joy of reading to all.
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From left: Book lovers Sam Chen and Brooks Deal with Jennifer Sauter-Price. Courtesy photo

Jennifer Sauter-Price spent the latter half of 2020 driving around in a big purple bus, delivering books to Arlington kids. Known as the “Pajama Mama”—a nod to the pj’s she often wears while making rounds—the founder of Read Early and Daily (READ) is on a mission to spread the joy of reading to all.

An Arlington mom who previously worked part-time for The Reading Connection (a local nonprofit that closed in 2017), Sauter-Price founded READ in 2018, using a buy-a-book/give-a-book business model. Families can buy children’s books from the nonprofit’s website, and those purchases, in turn, fund donations. READ works with partners such as the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) and Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) to get free books into the hands of kids who are eligible for free or reduced lunches.

In 2019, Sauter-Price applied for and won a $50,000 grant from the Gannett Foundation to fund a mobile bookstore. She tracked down a used school bus in South Carolina, equipped with an operational wheelchair lift, and commissioned local artist Rodrigo Pradel to paint a colorful mural on its side.

The bus was finally ready to hit the road when the pandemic arrived. It sat parked in front of Sauter-Price’s Arlington Forest home until June of 2020, when she started using it for contactless deliveries. By the end of the year, she had made 659 book bus deliveries to more than 1,900 children, gifting nearly 5,500 books to low-income kids.

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Categories: Community