Meet Melinda Harris and Emily Prater
by Robbi
March 16, 2022

Meet dyslexia therapist Melinda Harris and media specialist Emily Prater.

They will be our hosts at Maynard Elementary School when the bus rolls through Maynard, Arkansas, in January 2023. Melinda and Emily took a few minutes to tell us about themselves, their school, and the students of Maynard.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Promoting the love of reading!

WHAT IS YOUR SCHOOL’S GREATEST CHALLENGE?
It’s difficult to raise literacy scores at the same time as trying to meet the needs of our student population from a low socio-economic background (we are 100% free-lunch status).

WHAT DO YOU WISH PEOPLE BETTER UNDERSTOOD ABOUT THE CHALLENGES FACING TITLE I SCHOOLS?
The school provides a stable and safe environment for our students, who face many challenges both at home and school. We try, but, still, we can’t meet all their needs.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE BOOK TOUR WILL BRING TO MAYNARD?
Most parents will not or cannot attend any after-school events, so having an author visit during the school day will mean so much to our students. Getting to take home their very own book to share with their siblings and parents will be very exciting, too. And meeting the author and illustrator of that book will be a once in a lifetime experience for most of them!

WHAT IS SOMETHING FUN OR QUIRKY ABOUT YOUR SCHOOL, STUDENTS, ETC?
Our students love the outdoors. Many of them are avid hunters and love to fish.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SCHOOL TRADITIONS?
We have Pioneer Days in September; a Fishing Derby in the spring. Kids also love a “Camo Day” in any Spirit or dress-up week, because almost every student owns at least a camouflage shirt. Some own a whole outfit — LOL.

We’re looking so much forward to meeting Melinda and Emily, who have generously arranged a place for us to park and hook up our bus for the night, a tour of Maynard’s historic cabin and old jail, a place for us to shower and do laundry, and a meal at a local restaurant!

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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!