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.

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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: 12.9.22
In which, having just arrived in Texas, we plan to spend the night in Jasper County.

#busloadofbooks
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Robbi got this text from Erica Bridwell (known to friends and colleagues as “B”), the first-grade teacher who hosted Jasper during Tuesday’s visit to North Pike Elementary School in Summit, Mississippi. We signed a copy of Everywhere, Wonder for B, and Robbi had written in the dedication to “keep fighting the good fight.”
 
It’s a difficult time to be a teacher, especially at a school with limited resources and especially when serving kids who bring additional challenges to school. Educators need a boost every bit as much as their students do.
 
We’re sharing this to show that the tour is also for them, and maybe even more so. 
 
“We miss y’all! It felt like a part of us left when y’all did. Y’all have NO IDEA the impact you’re making not only on kids, but adults too! I haven’t had the easiest school year so far. I have felt defeated, frustrated, and overwhelmed. My connection with my students has felt faint and really nonexistent… I’ve struggled to find ways to motivate them, encourage them more… then y’all come along and somehow it has put fire back into me. Your words have made me reflect since I read them… “keep fighting the good fight…” it was powerful. I had that “full moon feeling” that feeling of how much I love what I do. I thought of what it means to me and what those kids mean to me. I remembered why God chose me to do this. Your kind words lifted me up. So thank you. Thank y’all. What y’all are doing is amazing! Safe travels! I’ll be following!”
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The Daily Minute: 12.8.22
In which we bask in the sweet Louisiana night and brace ourselves for the enormity of Texas.

#busloadofbooks
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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!