Our Partnership with First Book
by Matthew
October 26, 2021

Robbi and I will be the ones driving the bus and visiting the schools, but our tour would not be possible without the extraordinary people and organizations supporting our adventure.

Let’s start with First Book—a national nonprofit that has devoted the past three decades to providing free and low-cost books and other educational resources to under-resourced students and communities.

Each year, First Book programs and outreach help 5 million low-income children. To date, they have distributed more than 200 million books to students and teachers across the country.

Our friends at First Book are tapping their nationwide network of 500,000 Title I (and Title I-eligible) educators to help us identify schools where our assemblies and book giveaways will make the greatest impact.

A select group of First Book’s members has been invited to apply for a visit. From those applications, Robbi and I will choose (at least) one school in each state, hoping to come up with a list of 50 schools that includes a balance of sizes, demographics, and settings (rural, urban, suburban, etc.).

First Book is also coordinating with our publishers to source and secure the best possible prices for the books we’ll give away (so your donations can buy as many books as possible). They’ll also ship them to the schools we’ll visit.

(Not having to take on these logistics myself makes me so happy I could actually cry and probably will at some point.)

Mostly though, we’re excited to be partnering with First Book because our missions are so aligned—and because their work is such an inspiring proof of concept.

  • 87 percent of First Book members reported that students’ interest in reading increased after receiving books.
  • 79 percent of member teachers and librarians say that resources from First Book help them be the best educator they can be.

That’s the heart of what we aim to do—engage kids, promote reading, and provide a lift to hard-working educators.
We couldn’t have asked for better partners.


And if you’re a Title I educator, it’s easy and FREE to join the First Book network. Visit the First Book Marketplace to sign up and explore exclusive discounts on new books, supplies, educational resources, and other essentials for your students.



The Busload of Books Tour is a year-long project to promote literacy and raise awareness of the challenges facing our nation’s public schools.

Author/illustrator duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr (that’s us) and our four kids will spend the 2022-2023 school year traveling the country in a school bus/tiny home, visiting Title I schools in all 50 states (plus DC), and giving away 25,000 hardcover books to students and teachers from underserved communities.

As we travel, we will be blogging, vlogging and posting frequently to social media. All of our content will be appropriate for bringing families and students along on our ultimate road trip.

The latest on Instagram:

The Daily Minute: 6.18.24
In which Robbi reports from a rainforest near Anchorage.

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And they’re off!
Robbi and the kids (the dogs) left home early afternoon yesterday. They flew to Seattle last night and caught an overnight flight to Anchorage, where they landed just after midnight Alaska time. To kill time during their 12-hour layover, they’re going to rent a car and drive down the Turnagain Arm to Portage. It’s a gorgeous stretch of road along the water.
Later today, they’ll catch a flight to King Salmon, a small tundra town which is the jumping-off point for many sport fishing adventures—and the place where the fishermen in our district catch the bush planes that take them to their various fishing camps.  
The whole trip will take about 36 hours, at which point Robbi and the kids will land on the beach and be greeted by Robbi’s brother in a pickup truck. They’ll drive to our compound, take the plywood off the windows, head to the spring to get water, hook up the solar panel, and then start setting up our fishing lines.
It’s so much work to get started every year, but they’ll be up and running by the time I reach the tundra late next Monday evening. It’s possible I’ll jump off the plane and straight into my waders. Once the fishing starts, it waits for no one.
PS - This illustration is from our picture book Sunrise Summer, which tells the story of Alden’s first season as a member of the fishing crew. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into our lives in Alaska.

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The Daily Minute: 6.17.24
In which we tape up the coolers, and Robbi’s hair proves tundra-ready.

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The Daily Minute: 6.16.24
In which Robbi leaves for Alaska tomorrow and the dogs are running free.

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Whoever you are, take your seat on the bus!

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