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Tampa’s Bess the Book Bus rolling across the country giving out free books to kids

Jenn Frances runs the program and drives the bus
Bess the Book Bus
Posted at 3:42 AM, Feb 15, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. — Jenn Frances first fired up Bess the Book Bus sixteen years ago. One of the first schools she visited was Booker T. Washington Elementary in Tampa.

She returned to that school this week with the same mission.

“Getting into schools where kids might not be able to experience the joy of book ownership," says Frances.

Free books for all.

Funded by donations and such sponsors as Citgo and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bess has since motored beyond the Tampa Bay area to 48 states and hundreds of schools.

Through the years she's given out more than 750,000 of the coolest new books for young children to smiling readers.

Frances is currently driving the fifth version of the rolling non-profit, which is named after her grandmother.

“Now approaching about 200,000 miles on it," said Frances, noting the miles on Bess.

The thrill of watching kids light up while picking out a free book never gets old.

“I’ll tell kids to pick something that looks like it’s fun to read,” says Frances. “So they’re exploring all the different worlds books have to offer.”

To learn more about Bess the Book Bus, visit