A family of authors/illustrators takes the school bus across the United States to give away books

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) — Children’s author/illustrator duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr have launched a nationwide “bus book tour,” bringing books to Title I schools in all 50 States.

The traveling family is criss-crossing the United States on a home school bus with their four children for the 2022-2023 school year. They visit Title I elementary schools — children from low-income families make up at least 40% of enrollment — in all 50 states and Washington, DC, providing students and teachers with 25,000 hardcover books.

This one-of-a-kind tour will combine nationwide book distribution and the ultimate family road trip with a major research study on the impact of creator/student engagement. The main goals are to raise awareness of the challenges facing America’s public schools and to foster reading, creativity, and collaboration among children ages 5-12.

The Chestertown-based couple developed the idea in 2019 when they received a $30,000 grant to “do something awesome”. This initial support was augmented by contributions from more than 1,000 individual donors, making a nationwide tour a reality.

“We’ve seen hundreds of times over the impact that author/illustrator visits can have on school communities,” said Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr. “When children realize that we are just ordinary people, they recognize their own ability to create. They begin to read, write, draw and tell their own stories.

In addition to the central mission of the Tour, Swanson and Behr will:

• Partner with the Build-A-Bear Foundation and First Book to distribute an additional 125,000 free books to students and educators in Title I schools across America.

• Conduct a groundbreaking research study with Washington College in Chestertown, Md., to measure the impact of author/illustrator visits (filling a key research gap on this topic).

• Share the ultimate virtual road trip via daily digital content – ​​photos, essays, sketches and videos – that teachers and librarians can enjoy and follow with their students.

Author/illustrator visits can promote reading and creativity, but many schools cannot afford to bring in authors or buy new books. By visiting a Title I school in every state, Swanson and Behr (themselves products of Title I schools) hope to bring books and creative learning opportunities to historically underserved communities and highlight the heroic work of public educators. .

Swanson and Behr partnered with First Book to select the Tour schools.

First Book is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that provides books to underserved schools and educators across the United States. Kindergarten to Grade 1 students will receive Everywhere Wonder, a picture book on observation and storytelling. 2nd and 5th graders will receive Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom, an intermediate-level illustrated book about determining what’s most important and living life to the fullest.

“While access to books at home is one of the strongest predictors of academic achievement, millions of children from low-income households are growing up in book desolations. First Book has spent the past three decades promoting equity in education – and improving access to diverse and relevant books has been at the heart of our work for all those 30 years. We look forward to following Robbi and Matthew’s journey and celebrating the power of books in children’s lives.

Swanson and Behr will also work with Washington College’s Departments of Education and Sociology to measure the impact of one-time author visits to Title I elementary schools, filling a critical research gap on this topic. The data could provide a powerful tool to promote future literacy programs.

The Tour is powered by a unique combination of enthusiasm, generosity, diesel, data, community and coffee. Look for the colorful 24-foot school bus in a city near you.

Please visit the Busload of Books tour website, view the tour itinerary and learn more about the schools they will be visiting.

The work is partly powered by grassroots supporters through GoFundMe.

Visit BusloadOfBooks.Com/FAQ for more information. The family will document their travels on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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