WOW Bus will bring books into Birmingham communities, hopes to inspire more people to read

Read Time 4 Minutes

Jonathan Moore stands in front of WOW Bus Birmingham. Photo by Lauren Bedford for Bham Now

My first thought upon stepping onto Jonathan Moore’s WOW Bus? This does NOT feel like a bus. At all.

Filled with books, comfortable benches and whimsical music, the WOW Bus is like nothing I had seen before. I was amazed.

That’s exactly what Moore wants you to think. His goal with the WOW Bus is to create a comfortable, imaginative space that inspires kids to read.

WOW stands for “Words on Wheels.” The bus is set up with over 5 bookshelves, chairs, and two good-sized padded benches where you can curl up with a book and read. It’s like the comfortable reading nook you’ve always wanted — this one just happens to be on a remodeled school bus.

The ceiling is covered in old book pages, with some of them spelling out “Words on Wheels.” Photo by Lauren Bedford for Bham Now

The Story of the Bus

When Moore started thinking about starting his own WOW Bus in Birmingham in September of 2017, he took to Facebook. He found others who had started WOW Buses and reached out to them with his questions. When he reached out to one woman, she made him an offer he couldn’t refuse:

“If you can get to Texas, you can drive my bus back home and keep it.”

Moore was taken aback by her generosity and grateful to her. He and his wife flew over to Texas to drive the bus home to Birmingham.

Bookcases line the sides of the WOW Bus. Photo by Lauren Bedford for Bham Now

The WOW Bus’s first life

The catch? Moore has still never met the wonderful Mrs. Bayles! You see, Mrs. Bayles lives in California. She had the bus when she lived in Texas, and she had it parked at a neighborhood park. This allowed people in the community to use the bus as take one / leave one library. People were encouraged to get on the bus and find a book they loved, to hang out and read for a little while. They were also encouraged to donate books to the bus whenever they had extras.

However, when development started in the area, Bayles had to put the bus in storage. She jumped at the chance for the bus to have a second life. 

Another view of the book-page covered ceiling. Bookcases line the sides of the WOW Bus. Photo by Lauren Bedford for Bham Now

WOW Bus Comes to Bham

Moore had a bit of a different plan than Mrs. Bayles. He wants to use the bus to inspire people, especially kids and young people to read more, to start using their imagination and to get lost in the wonder of a book. Currently, his bus allows people to board and relax with a book, but they must put the books back before they leave. He is currently working on building up his library of books so that there is more opportunity for the kids to swap and share books.

I really want to inspire our parents and our neighborhoods to not solely depend on the schools to teach our kids. I want them to say ‘Hey, we want to take ownership of that because we are a part of it too.’


It is Moore’s hope that by providing young people access to books, their love for reading and their imaginations will be sparked. I think we can all attest to the power and pull of a great book, and I am excited to see how the WOW Bus impacts young people in our communities and inspires us to keep reading.

A Living Room on Wheels

As I sat in the bus chatting with Moore, I couldn’t get over how much the bus did not feel like a bus. The only way I could describe it is by saying, “This just doesn’t feel like a bus — it feels like a living room.” That aspect is by design. Mrs. Bayles enlisted the help of an interior designer from New York to help her design the bus, and every inch feels purposeful and distinctly non bus-like. Moore describes both his and Mrs. Bayles’ outlook on the design of the bus:

You want to be able to create a space where people feel comfortable sitting for long periods of time so that they can get lost in a book and not feel like, ‘Oh, I’m sitting in a bus.’ You want to feel like you’re sitting in a living room, getting comfortable and kicking back with a book. 

The WOW Bus has rolled into Bham and we are so excited to see it out and about! Be on the lookout starting next spring! Photo by Lauren Bedford for Bham Now

Moore has had one very successful outing with the WOW Bus at Woodlawn Street Market. However, he is planning to stock the bus with books and to start taking it out and around Birmingham communities starting in the Spring of 2019! Be on the lookout!

Perhaps Not Just For Kids

Right now, the focus of the bus is on the kids in our communities who may not have access to books. Moore is planning to bring the books to them instead of them having to find out how to get to the books. But he did throw around a few ideas for the future; for example, a book club for adults that meets on the bus. What do you guys think? Would you attend a book club on the coolest bus in Birmingham?

Let me know! Email me: I’d love to hear your thoughts and find out who I’ll be bus-book clubbing with in the future! 

Want to help the WOW Bus stock up on books?

Click here to help Moore stock the WOW Bus with books for the community! When you use this link, you can buy books for you / your kids, OR you can buy books that you’d like to donate to the WOW Bus (preferable from the Nonfiction section). Once a certain number is hit, Moore will start to receive credit to the site that he can use to buy more books! 

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Lauren Bedford
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