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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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: 6.18.24
In which Robbi takes an early-morning drive along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet.
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The Daily Minute: 6.18.24
In which Robbi reports from a rainforest near Anchorage.
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And they’re off!
 
Robbi and the kids (the dogs) left home early afternoon yesterday. They flew to Seattle last night and caught an overnight flight to Anchorage, where they landed just after midnight Alaska time. To kill time during their 12-hour layover, they’re going to rent a car and drive down the Turnagain Arm to Portage. It’s a gorgeous stretch of road along the water.
 
Later today, they’ll catch a flight to King Salmon, a small tundra town which is the jumping-off point for many sport fishing adventures—and the place where the fishermen in our district catch the bush planes that take them to their various fishing camps.  
 
The whole trip will take about 36 hours, at which point Robbi and the kids will land on the beach and be greeted by Robbi’s brother in a pickup truck. They’ll drive to our compound, take the plywood off the windows, head to the spring to get water, hook up the solar panel, and then start setting up our fishing lines.
 
It’s so much work to get started every year, but they’ll be up and running by the time I reach the tundra late next Monday evening. It’s possible I’ll jump off the plane and straight into my waders. Once the fishing starts, it waits for no one.
 
PS - This illustration is from our picture book Sunrise Summer, which tells the story of Alden’s first season as a member of the fishing crew. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into our lives in Alaska.
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The Daily Minute: 6.17.24
In which we tape up the coolers, and Robbi’s hair proves tundra-ready.
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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!