BURR RIDGE – Second-grader Hayden Ollmann knew what book he wanted to take home even before setting foot inside the Big Rig Books trailer.
“Spiderman is my favorite book,” the Anne M. Jeans Elementary School student said.
Several minutes of hunting turned up just what Hayden wanted.
Hayden and his classmates had their choice of thousands of books Oct. 9, thanks to John Gervase of Burr Ridge and his latest venture, Big Rig Books.
“We want to put books into kids’ hands and into their homes,” said Gervase, who was looking for a new use for his bright orange Peterbilt when he came up with the idea for Big Rig Books.
“I learned there is a direct link between literacy and poverty,” Gervase said.
He is working to sever that link by giving books to kids in need. Since January, Big Rig Books has distributed more than 20,000 books to kids from preschool through high school.
For several years Gervase donated his time and his truck to deliver food from the Northern Illinois Food Bank to area food pantries. When insurance and liability became an issue, he needed to find a new reason to drive his big orange toy.
Gervase said he thought getting the books would be the hard part, but generous donors have kept the shelves of his converted Book Mobile, as well as his garage, well stocked.
“There is so much need out there,” said Gervase, who spends about three days a week traveling to area schools.
Oct. 9 was Gervase’s sixth monthly visit to Anne M. Jeans, where about 400 elementary students added a book to their personal collections.
Second-grader Terrance Carter finished his book of choice even before leaving the trailer.
“I love reading,” Terrance said between pages.
Gervase’s truck is stocked with books for all ages, from board books for the smallest guests to novels for teens.
“The books get harder as you go up the shelves,” he said.
Although the Gervases have been given tens of thousands of books, they still could use books to appeal to their male readers.
“The boys love sports books,” Kathy Gervase said. “We don’t have a lot of those.”
They also welcome cash donations to help pay for things like fuel for the truck’s two 150-gallon tanks.
Gervase soon will take his operation to Florida, where he will distribute books from November through March. In April, the Big Rig will return to the Chicago suburbs.
A quote on the wall of the trailer sums up the mission of Big Rig Books.
“The better you are able to read, the better you will do in school. The better job you will be able to get. The better you will do in life.”
“I think what we’re doing is a good thing,” said Gervase.
Judging from the smile on the face of first-grader Kaliya Sky Evans after choosing her new Sesame Street book from the Big Rig shelves, Gervase is right.