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School Bus Driver Tutors Kids Between Routes

55-year-old New Jersey school bus driver Herman Cruse noticed that a kindergartner seemed a little sad and out of sorts during one morning ride to Middle Township Elementary. When Cruse asked the kindergartner what was wrong, the boy explained that he couldn’t complete his reading assignment because his parents were busy with his four siblings at home to help him practice reading.

Cruse said an idea popped into his mind, since normally he just napped between his morning and afternoon routes. “I told him, ‘Listen, I have some free time, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to come to the school and read with you.’”

Cruse received permission from the six-year-old’s teacher, Alex Bakley, to show up at her kindergarten classroom the following week. When he walked in, the boy shouted, “Hey, that’s my bus driver!”

Cruse said, “We went into a quiet corner and began reading together, and it took on a life of its own. Then a second student wanted to read to me, then a third. All these kids were going to the teacher asking, ‘Can I read with Mr. Herman?’”

He and Bakley decided to call his reading circle “Mr. Herman’s Kids.” Bakley said, “He’s a bright light at our school who makes every child feel loved and heard—they’re all drawn to his energy.”

LaCotia Ruiz said her five-year-old son Kingsly is more excited about books since he started reading with Cruse. She said, “Kingsly had a rough time with reading at the beginning of the school year, but he’s doing much better because of this fun one-on-one time. In the morning he wakes up excited and says, ‘I’m going to read with Mr. Herman!’”

Cruse’s enthusiasm for his new role has caught on with his colleagues. “There’s now another bus driver who wants to help me out between his routes. What started out as a way to kill time has now blossomed into a way to make a difference in the heart of a child.”

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