TOPSHAM, Maine — A school bus driver here was recently recognized for a program he started to encourage the students he transports to read more and read together, The Forecaster reports.

Don Sanders has driven buses for School Administrative District 75 for the past 15 years, according to the newspaper. He started the Bus Book Bags program in October 2014, and the 10-book project has since grown to 90 books and extends to other buses. The project is now a joint effort between the school district and the Topsham Public Library, and won Sanders the Giraffe Award from nonprofit Maine Children’s Alliance last fall.

Sanders said in an interview with The Forecaster last year that when kindergartners and first graders first start riding the bus, they are a little “unsettled” so he was trying to “think of some way to keep them engaged in something.” The program started with Sanders bringing a few children’s books from home and asking some fourth- and fifth-grade students to come to the front of the bus and read to the younger students. The program has sparked connections between children of different ages and a decline of bad behavior on the bus.

Sanders told the newspaper on Monday that the program is going strong, that he has received many calls from other school districts and libraries, both inside and outside Maine, and that winning the Giraffe Award has helped to get the word out on the program statewide.

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