Children’s book creators Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr took a detour from their cross-country trip to Freeport on Sunday to join two dozen volunteers in sorting through boxes of books stacked on aisles of tables.
The couple, along with their four children, learned to organize donated books by condition and other factors at the Book Fairies nonprofit book bank on the ground floor of a building where a Sunday service could be held. heard from the church upstairs. .
It was a detour they said they were happy to take.
“We’re the lucky people who can go out there and do the fun part of it,” Swanson told Newsday. “So hopefully we can draw attention to the great work that others are doing.”
The fun part Swanson is referring to is a planned 10-month trip the family takes to visit at least one elementary school in each of the 50 states and Washington, DC.
The couple said they raised $150,000 to buy 25,000 copies of their books which are being shipped by First Book, a non-profit organization that provides books and educational materials to children in need.
They call it the “Busload of Books Tour”.
The couple left their home in Chestertown, on Maryland’s east coast, in late August, traveling with their four children and a Boston terrier named Dumbles in a school bus painted by Behr with bright colors and drawings of children and dads. animals reading books.
So far, they’ve visited eight schools, including one in upstate New York, giving students and teachers hardcover copies of books they’ve written and illustrated, such as “Everywhere, wonder”.
Like the book, the journey is about finding wonder in the spectacular and the ordinary in nature and life, they said.
On Sunday morning in Freeport, they saw the painstaking work of organizing boxes of books before they could be distributed to children and adults.
“It’s amazing the amount of work that goes into getting these books to where they need to go,” Behr, who illustrates their books while her husband writes, told Newsday.
Book Fairies collects and distributes new and used books to low-income communities on Long Island and New York.
Amy Zaslansky, who founded Book Fairies in her garage in Bellmore in 2012, said the idea came from a book drive she organized that year after learning that teachers in Hempstead needed help. books to send home with students to read in the summer.
“There were really two groups of people on Long Island,” Zaslansky told Newsday.
“There is a group of people who had a lot of books that they didn’t know what to do with anymore, and they needed them out of the house,” she said.
“And then there were kids on Long Island who didn’t have access to any books.”
Book Fairies distributes an average of 600,000 books a year to schools, homeless shelters, foster care agencies, correctional facilities and other groups, said executive director Eileen Minogue.
The need has become even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“During COVID, homeless shelters would come up to us and say, ‘Sometimes the Wi-Fi is spotty.’ Sometimes we don’t have enough pills for everyone. We need something so that these kids are getting them out of the pandemic and getting them out of the homeless shelter,” Minogue recalled.
“There are large parts of the country where children don’t have easy access to books,” Swanson said Sunday. “It’s… such important work going on there.”