Research Study Pilot at Galena Elementary
by Matthew
December 11, 2021

These boxes are full of books.

Today, they will be donated to the students and teachers of Galena Elementary, a Title I school right here in Kent County, where Robbi and I will be giving assemblies that relate to the books’ themes of creativity, collaboration, observation, and storytelling.

But that’s not even the most exciting thing happening today. We’ll also be launching a part of the tour we haven’t talked much about so far—but that might end up having the biggest impact of all.

In collaboration with our friend Sara Clarke-De Reza and her colleagues in the department of education at Washington College, Robbi and I will be using our tour to facilitate the first-ever large-scale research study of how author visits impact elementary students’ attitudes about reading and creativity.

Any author who has done school visits will tell you the results are clear and consistent—kids get excited and energized about books and reading—but so far, there has never been a scientific study to quantify it.

Enter the Busload of Books tour! When she heard about our project, Sara’s ears perked up. Because we’ll be giving roughly the same presentations to 25,000 students over the course of a year, we’ll be able to collect a huge group of data from communities in every party of country.

Pictured here are our son Jasper and Rachel Hopkins, the wonderful human and beloved first grade teacher to Alden, Kato, and August. She now serves as the Title I Interventionist at Galena, where she works to connect students with the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. Rachel has been our partner in setting up the pilot and thinking through the possibilities.

If this research can quantify the impact we’ve seen time and again through lived experience, it could provide much-needed leverage for anyone trying to secure funding for author visits in the future—whether grant writers, principals, librarians, teachers, PTA chairs, publishers, authors, nonprofits, or development officers.

Even when our hearts know something works, sometimes people want to see the data.

Fortunately, we have the team in place to track it down. Thanks to Sara and Rachel for all they are doing to get this ball rolling.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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:

Almost home.


13 0

Good night from Lake Compounce Campground, where the heat is lifted, the moon is up, and the dogs are wanting for us to come to bed, already.

We had a wonderful day with the students and teachers of Highland Elementary. Usually school visits are single-day affairs, but we get to go back to Highland tomorrow for another day of fun.

Sweet dreams, friends.


30 2

The Daily Minute: 5.22.24
In which we hear a story created by the next generation of authors and illustrators at Highland Elementary.


12 0

Whoever you are, take your seat on the bus!

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