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In Which We Acquire Corn Socks, Meet the Mayor, and Make Five Hundred New Friends

On Monday, we visited L.B. Williams Elementary School in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Among all the schools in South Dakota, we chose L.B. Williams, in no small part because of the graciousness of our host, Deb Bartscher. At the end of a compelling essay about what our visit would mean to her community, she ended with this, “Thanks for providing this opportunity to whatever school is chosen in South Dakota.

”That generosity of spirit was clear throughout our visit. Deb was waiting with a group of kids and a huge banner to welcome us when we arrived.

Also there to greet us was Principal Becky Roth, who ushered us inside for a special treat: local mural artist (and L.B. Williams parent) Stan Sherwood had painted cafeteria columns to look like the spines of our books.

These are just small examples of how prepared they were. The students had read another book before we came—“The Energy Bus,” a bus-themed book about positivity. The community has been tracking our progress on a map. Bus-themed art lined the hallways.

Deb and Becky made the most of our visit, inviting education professors and education students from local Dakota Wesleyan University. A reporter from the local paper came to talk with us. And the district superintendent. And even…the mayor!

We could not have felt more welcome. The two students in charge of student government presented us with a basket of treasures: corn socks, corn balls, corn magnets, and personalized bookmarks made by Deb.

Upon learning Jasper would be joining her class for the day, his teacher made a desk for him—with his own name plate.

After our second assembly, one young man asked me for a hug, which I happily gave. Afterward, he gave me a smile and the best compliment I’ve ever received. “Somehow you inspired me.” I gave him another hug for good measure.

Eventually, we had to leave. It’s the worst part of these visits. But we’re glad to know part of us will remain. Not just on the cafeteria walls—but in the hearts and minds of the students and teachers.

A mom wrote us that night saying her reading-averse first grader had eagerly read to her from his copy of Everywhere, Wonder on the way home from school that day.

That’s why we’re doing this, friends. That, and the corn socks, of course.

 

Recently:

The Busload of Books Tour is a yearlong 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 are spending 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.

Along the way, we’ll be conducting a major research project, making a picture book about America, and inviting our followers to join us on a yearlong exploration of our country’s unsung wonders and off-the-beaten-path communities.

As we travel, we will be blogging, vlogging, and posting daily to social media. All content will be appropriate for elementary-aged students who want to join us for the ultimate road trip.

The latest on Instagram:

The Daily Minute: 1.3.23
In which our spirits are high as the sun shines down on the mountains of northeast Alabama.

#busloadofbooks
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Hi Friends! Today we’re in Alabama, whose official flower is the camellia (they smell SO good), official dance is the squaredance, and state motto is Share the Wonder.

Alabama also has a state language — English. A few over half the US states have an official language. On a federal level, though, the US has none. Many people speak English, but there are actually more than 400 languages spoken and signed within our country! And nearly 200 of these are indigenous.

Although Alabama’s past, as with much of the South, has at times been fraught with injustice, it, because of this, also gave rise to many champions of difference and equality.

Many strides for the Civil Rights movement were made in AL — it was in Montgomery, for example, that Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on the bus to the white man demanding it. 

Actually, not many know that a few months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, another woman, only 15, did the same, and was arrested — her name was Claudette Colvin, an activist in her own right.

Jesse Owens, the inspiring four-time 1936 Berlin Olympics track-and-field gold-medalist, came from AL, too, as did Helen Keller, the author and disability rights activist, a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the first deafblind woman in the US to earn a BA.

AL also has a diverse environment — in fact, the state is 70% forest and ranks 5th for biodiversity! 

In fact, AL has an odd monument to the boll weevil, a destructive critter which used to devour cotton farms. This forced AL to diversify its crops, which ended up being better for the land itself.

On the industry side of things, up in Huntsville, you'll find the US Space and Rocket Center — the largest spaceflight museum in the world. Saturn V, the rocket that powered the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, was built nearby.

Oh yeah, and on the subject of flights — apparently, when airline luggage is truly lost, and all efforts to return it to its original owners fail, it ends up in Scottsboro, AL. The Unclaimed Baggage Center sells the luggage contents as if it were a thrift store. Which is actually wild.
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The Daily Minute: 1.2.23
In which Jasper reports on his very good day at Madison Cross Roads Elementary.

#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!