WENATCHEE — About 25,000 books will go to 52 Title I elementary schools nationwide by a family on a bus tour.
Author Matthew Swanson and illustrator Robbi Behr, with their four children and two dogs, will make one stop at Columbia Elementary School in Wenatchee on May 24.
“Hardcover seems like a small thing to people who have lots of books… but a brand new hardcover book — we have kids smell them, knock on them, say ‘It’s a tough book,’ ” Behr said.
Other students get inspired to tell their own stories and draw pictures, he said.
The “Busload of Books Tour” began Aug. 30, 2022, from the family’s hometown of Chestertown, Maryland. A $30,000 grant from a friend “made us believe that people believe in us and literacy and the power of books and reading,” Swanson said.
A partnership with First Book, which helps get books and resources to underserved kids, sent two hardcover books by the duo to each student in advance of the classroom visit: for younger kids, “Everywhere, Wonder,” and for older kids “Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom.”
“It’s not just about the books. It’s about the fact that two people and their family made the decision to come to a community that is often overlooked,” Swanson said, speaking of Title 1 schools, where a high percentage of students qualify for free lunch and might not have librarians.
“Chosen, valued, seen, appreciated, recognized — feelings,” he said.
“They (the students) are very curious about the lives of the duo and I am sure they will have an immense amount of questions, comments, and smiles for our guests,” said Roxanna Vanatta, the Columbia Elementary School teacher who applied to be visited on the tour.
The 23-foot bus impresses the school kids, too.
“It’s mostly where we sleep and travel,” Swanson said. “We’re making a real point to get out and explore the places — adventuring, hiking and exploring.”
Swanson’s four kids are Alden, 15, Cato, 13, Augie, 11, and Jasper, 6, who are “having the experience of a lifetime,” he said. The kids make use of vertical space by sleeping in a pop-up tent on the roof.
“Robbi, who was the maker of the itinerary and route, has tried hard to have us wherever the weather is most favorable any time of year. A spectacular job,” Swanson said.
The “Busload of Books Tour” posts regularly on social media accounts for Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and a trip blog. Visit busloadofbooks.com for more information.
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