Marley’s Harley

Free Teri Marley on her bike

Allatoona Elementary School
Acworth, Georgia

What are your chances of getting a new book of your own to take home and enjoy? Your chances are pretty good if you’re a student at Allatoona Elementary school in Georgia. And those chances are even better if it happens to be Wildcat Wednesday and you hear the sound of a bell getting closer to your classroom. Bells and books in this school of 400 students arrive each week that school is in session, courtesy of Principal Teri Marley, who faithfully makes the rounds on a three-wheeler with a book basket in tow.

“And I go down the hall and I’m ringing that bell and the children are like… ‘Here she comes!’” Marley has been an educator for 35 years, and she’d spent the last several as an assistant principal. But in August 2019 when she assumed the duties as head principal at Allatoona, she followed through on an idea she’d had for a while. With the help of her sister, she got herself a bike…a trike, to be more specific, and she loaded the basket with books to share with all the students. “I actually got the idea from something I’d seen on a website, and it just looked like a really fun thing to do to motivate the students, so I decided I wanted to give it a try.”

It’s been a major hit with everyone. Marley says she typically reminds students and staff during
Wednesday morning announcements that it’s a book delivery day. And she says on the rare occasion
when she forgets, the children point it out to their teachers. In any school, getting gifts of books to own
is a special occurrence, but it’s that much more special to a student for whom books are rare. “The first
time I rode around and gave out the books, one of the first graders said, ‘Yay! Now I’ll have two books
of my own!’ And to think of all the books I’ve bought for my kids and grandkids…and here’s this child
who’s happy to get just one.”

Bookmobile license plate
Marley’s bookmobile license plate

There’s no budget for the books the children receive. Marley says she started with an
investment of her own money and has never used any school funds to purchase books. Instead, the
generosity of caring neighbors and community partners has kept the delivery basket full. Still, Marley
has had to move to a lottery system so that only a portion of the students receive books on any given
Wednesday. At holiday time and on special occasions, like Read Across America Day, they’ve been able
to give every child a book.

Since school closed early for the year, Marley’s Harley, as she affectionately refers to her basket-
bearing book bike, is temporarily in storage. It’s actually parked at Marley’s church, where she was
scheduled to make a ride for donations to support the book program. That plan got postponed because
of the pandemic. But this book biker expects to roll for reading again in a matter of weeks. Hope is
riding high for an on-time opening for the school year and for continued generosity for her budding
readers. Marley says she’s ready to ring that bell for books and to witness the excitement from the
children who eagerly wait to receive and to read.

If you would like to support the work of Allatoona’s book program, you should contact Teri Marley at the
school. You may reach her at teri.marley@bartow.k12.va.us or by telephone during office hours 770-
606-5843. The office is closed on Fridays during the summer. You may also learn more about the school
at https://allatoona.bartow.k12.ga.us/.