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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Recently:

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!