Research Pilot Recap
by Matthew
December 13, 2021

Friday’s visit to Galena Elementary School was a huge success. It felt so good to connect with students and teachers in person again after so much time presenting via Zoom.

We gave three assemblies and many elbow bumps and had lunch with a small group of kids who asked excellent questions. Our friend and education professor Sara Clarke-De Reza and her colleagues from Washington College were there to oversee the research side of things. (If you missed my earlier post, the plan is to use the Busload of Books Tour to conduct the first-ever, large-scale effort to quantify the impact of author/illustrator visits in elementary schools.)

The Galena Elementary students and teachers filled out one survey before we presented and another immediately after—the point being to see if our presentations moved the dial at all in terms of attitudes about reading and creativity. They’ll fill out a third survey six weeks from now to see if the changes (if any) persisted.

We can’t wait to see what the data has to say. But we didn’t need numbers to notice certain kinds of impact.

We started the day with a presentation for the pre-K – 1st graders on our picture book Everywhere, Wonder, in which we stress the importance of channeling observation and experience into storytelling. We remind the kids that their own lives are full of stories worth sharing with others.

About an hour later, this little guy tracked us down to share the beginnings of his “story” with us and came back one more time at the end of the day to share his continuing progress.

There’s at least one encounter like this in every school we visit, obvious evidence of a kid being excited and energized to imagine and create.

This is why we’re embarking on this journey—to foster these kinds of connections and sparks. And, with thanks to Sara and her colleagues, to see if we can measure them with something bigger than our hearts.


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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:

Almost home.


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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.


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


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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!