One family. One nation. One year.

A whole heaping busload of books.

Hello!

We are Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr, husband/ wife, author/illustrator creators of middle grade and picture books—here to tell you about our literacy access initiative, the Busload of Books.

We and our four kids spent the 2022-2023 school year traveling the country in a school bus/tiny home—visiting Title I schools in all 50 states (plus DC), doing presentations on creativity and collaboration, and giving away 125,000 hardcover books to students and teachers from underserved communities.

Partnerships with First Book and Build-A-Bear Foundation expanded the tour’s reach to 150,000 books and 125,000 “reading buddy” teddy bears distributed to Title 1 communities across the country.

Along the way we partnered with Washington College to facilitate the first-ever, large-scale research study of how author/illustrator visits impact elementary student attitudes about reading, writing, and drawing.

Our Colorful, Rolling Billboard for Literacy

Our 24-foot Thomas school bus (home for our year on the road) comes with us to every Title I school visit. After each assembly, kids come out to see the bus, take class photos, and meet our dogs.

Inside of bus showing bench seats and kitchenette

The Next Phase

We’re in the process of raising funds and building more partnerships to continue this work in the 2024-2025 school year.

Our plans include:

Live virtual assemblies, free to any Title I community, with rotating programming throughout the year.

Monthly Title I elementary school visits with free assemblies, books, and “reading buddies” for every student and teacher (in partnership with First Book and Build-A-Bear Foundation).

Ongoing research partnership with Washington College. The data we collect has the potential to transform funding and priority for future literacy programming.

Busload of Books Research Project

We’re partnering with the departments of education and sociology at Washington College to conduct the first-ever, large-scale study of how author/illustrator visits impact attitudes about literacy and creativity among elementary school students. The resulting data will fill a critical gap in the research on this topic—and could provide powerful tools for school administrators and teachers trying to secure funding and priority for literacy programming.

We’re partnering with a national nonprofit, a leading liberal arts college, a beloved local arts organization, and our generous publisher.

FIRST BOOK

helps us identify the schools we visit—and works with our publishers to print and get books to Title I students and teachers.

WASHINGTON COLLEGE

is using data we collect to analyze the impact of author/illustrator visits on attitudes regarding reading, writing, and drawing.

KENT CULTURAL ALLIANCE

makes our work possible by accepting tax-deductible donations on our behalf.

FIRST BOOK

helped us identify the schools we’ll visit—and is working with our publishers to get our books to students and teachers.

WASHINGTON COLLEGE

is using our tour to conduct a major study that will fill a critical gap in the research on the impact of author/illustrator visits.

KENT CULTURAL ALLIANCE

is filling our bus with hometown pride and accepting tax-deductible donations on our behalf.

RANDOM HOUSE

is helping with publicity and making a major donation of books.

Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr are the author and illustrator of the Cookie Chronicles series, The Real McCoys trilogy, the forthcoming Life on the Moon and the picture books Sunrise Summer, Babies Ruin Everything, and Everywhere, Wonder. When not advocating for educational equity, giving talks on creativity, or commercial salmon fishing in Alaska, they live with their four kids and two dogs in the hayloft of an old barn on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Read more about us
in the Washington Post!

MATTHEW

Author, Dad,
Tundra Nanny

ROBBI

Illustrator, Mom,
Fisherwoman

ALDEN (15)

Actor, Artist, Entrepreneur

KATO (13)

Athlete, Gamer,
Engineer

AUGUST (11)

All-star Hugger,
Magical Being

JASPER (6)

Shouter, Jester,
Autocrat

DUMBLES (3)

Snuffler, Mooch,
Grumpy Old Man

GOJI (1)

Alien Fur Bug

SELECT MEDIA

THE DREW BARRYMORE SHOW

Live appearance from McElwain Elementary in Denver, Colorado (as part of the Busload of Books Tour)

WASHINGTON POST 2019

Four-page profile of our lives as creators (cover story of magazine insert). Click here to read.

PEOPLE MAGAZINE

Print and online feature in People’s Smile section.

FORBES

NYT bestselling author MeiMei Fox on the Busload of Books Tour. Read it here.

WASHINGTON POST 2021

Feature on the launch of The Cookie of Perfection and the Busload of Books Tour here.

RURALITE MAGAZINE

Cover story about the Busload of Books Tour. Read it here.

WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS

A conversation about how illustration can be a form of authorship—and a tool for increasing representation in kid lit. Click here to read.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

An interview with fellow author Betsy Bird—about our creative process and the Busload of Books Tour. Click here to read.

RELUCTANT READER BOOKS

Our favorite-ever review of The Cookie Chronicles—and why these books are a good match for readers trying to find their footing. Read it here.

NEW YORK TIMES

An interview with the ArtsBeats blog about our indie press Idiots’Books. Read it here.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

The official book-world announcement of the Busload of Books Tour is here.

SELECT PODCASTS

HELLO MONDAY

We join LinkedIn’s Jessi Hempel for a conversation about leaving our day jobs to make books and kids. Listen here.

END BOOK DESERTS

We talk with teacher, scholar, author, and literacy advocate Molly Ness about the Busload of Books Tour here.

THE AUTONOMOUS CREATIVE PODCAST

Our conversation with comic artist Jessica Abel about risk, reward, and making your own luck can be found here.

THE AUTONOMOUS CREATIVE - with video!

Our conversation with comic artist Jessica Abel about risk, reward, and making your own luck. The crowdcast can be found here.

The latest on Instagram:

The Daily Minute: 2.21.24
In which, 35 training sessions later, Jasper is ready to pilot the big cart.
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CHICAGO AREA FRIENDS!
 
Robbi and I are heading to your fair city on Sunday for a busy week of back-to-back school visits. We’ll be doing many presentations, various lunches, several dinners, and an evening meet-and-greet. (This is where you come in.)
 
Should you care to meet us or greet us or give us a hug, we’ll be at the Glenside Library in Glendale Heights from 3:30-5:00pm next Tuesday night (Feb 27), meeting and greeting and hopefully seeing you.
...

23 5

The Daily Minute: 2.20.24
In which Robbi is on strike, Jasper shows no mercy, and Dumbles holds strong opinions we cannot comprehend.
...

31 4

The Daily Minute: 2.19.24
In which we are scheming and dreaming of fewer hats and no joy.
...

30 2

The Daily Minute: 2.18.24
In which Matthew makes amends by gifting his friend Mike the perfect frozen puddle.
...

28 1

Whoever you are, take your seat on the bus!

Our adventure is your adventure. Our country is your country, too. Follow along with us!