WHITMORE LAKE – Robbi and Matthew’s Busload of Books Tour makes just one stop in Michigan, and students at Whitmore Lake Elementary School this week were the beneficiaries of the couple’s nationwide campaign to promote literacy and reading.
Based on husband and wife duo, the tour is a year-long project to raise awareness of the challenges facing public schools across the country.
The Maryland family of Swanson, Behr, their children Alden, Kato, August, and Jasper, and their 2-year-old dog, Dumbles, travel across the United States in a renovated school bus and visit a State Title I school to share their books with the students and talk about them. On Tuesday, Matthew Swanson, who writes, Robbie Behr, the illustrator, and their four children shared books and spoke with students and staff.
“They’re on a mission to showcase creativity and collaboration and their goal is to donate 25,000 hardcover books to students and teachers across the country,” said the principal of Whitmore Lake Elementary School. , Heidi Roy-Borland.
Swanson said the couple researched Title I schools to support. Title I is a federal education program that supports low-income students. The funds are distributed to very poor schools, based on the number of students who qualify for a free or reduced price lunch.
In 2021, the Busload of Books Tour sent out a request for schools to become tour stops.
“It’s really exciting. It kind of surprised me when I got the award email. It’s a big deal. We’re trying to think, ‘How are we representing our state?’ But our community is very excited. We’re a small community, but a very close community, so events like this get a lot of positive attention,” Roy-Borland said.
On Tuesday, the family held two assemblies with students and staff and distributed their books to students.
Following the assemblies, some students were chosen to ask the family questions over lunch and fill out a document asking for their favorite meal, favorite activity, and how they would change the world if they were in charge.
A copy of the couple’s books “Everywhere, Wonder,” given to students in kindergarten through first grade, and “Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom,” given to students in grades two through sixth, were the subject of assemblies and copies were given.
Fifth-grade student Aaron Ray, who started reading “Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom” when he received it, said he really enjoyed it and was already in Chapter 3. He said his favorite part so far was learning about Yokoyama, a character, getting his fortune.
Shelly Lyon, a fourth-grade teacher, said that through First Books, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., the family has partnered with her, she has purchased discounted books from various authors, including Swanson and Behr.
“I was very excited when I heard they were coming. I had discovered their books, the ‘Cookie Chronicles’, last year, so I already had children reading their books last year, so it was very lucky and I loved them,” Lyon said.
She said her students were excited and as a fan of the books herself, it was almost like meeting celebrities. Lyon, who has been teaching for more than two decades, said she has always loved literature and was passionate about sharing her love with children.
Melanie Clawson, who is pursuing graduate studies toward a master’s degree in literacy, was thrilled to see students getting the reading boost.
“It’s really amazing. It shows our kids the opportunities to do all kinds of things,” Clawson said.
Swanson said the duo have released more than 80 books, 15 of which were released through a publishing house. They have been writing together for ten years.