WHITMORE LAKE - Robbi and Matthew's Busload of Books Tour is making just one stop in Michigan, and the students at Whitmore Lake Elementary School this week were the beneficiaries of the couple's nationwide drive to promote literacy and reading.
According to the husband and wife duo, the tour is a year-long project to raise awareness of the challenges facing the nation’s public schools.
The Maryland family of Swanson, Behr, their kids Alden, Kato, August and Jasper, and their 2-year-old dog, Dumbles, is traveling across the United States in a revamped school bus and visiting one Title I school per state to share their books with students and talk about them. Tuesday, Matthew Swanson, who writes, Robbie Behr, the illustrator, and their four children shared books and spoke with students and staff.
"They have a mission of doing presentations on creativity and collaboration and their goal is to give away 25,000 hard-cover books to students and teachers across the country," Whitmore Lake Elementary School Principal Heidi Roy-Borland said.
Swanson said the couple sought out Title I schools to support. Title I is a federal education program that supports low-income students. Funds are distributed to high poverty schools, as determined by the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
In 2021, the Busload of Books Tour sent out an application for schools to become stops on the tour.
"It's really exciting. It kind of surprised me when I got the award email. It's kind of a big deal. We're trying to think, 'How do we represent our state?' But our community is very excited. We're a small community, but a very close community, so events like this bring a lot of positive attention," Roy-Borland said.
On Tuesday, the family conducted two assemblies with students and staff and gave out their books to students.
Following the assemblies, some students were chosen to ask the family questions over lunch, and fill out a paper inquiring about their favorite meal, favorite thing to do, 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 preschool through first grade, and "Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom," given to students in second through sixth grade, were the subject of the assemblies and copies were given away.
Fifth grader Aaron Ray, who started reading "Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom" when he received it, said he's really enjoying it and is already on Chapter 3. He said his favorite part so far was learning about Yokoyama, a character, getting his fortune.
Fourth grade teacher Shelly Lyon said that through First Books, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., the family is partnering with, she has purchased discounted books from a variety of authors, including by 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 kids reading their books last year, so that 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 taught for more than two decades, said she has always loved literature and is passionate about sharing her love with kids.
Melanie Clawson, who is in graduate school to obtain a master's degree in literacy studies, was please to see the students receive 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 has published more than 80 books, with 15 published through a publishing company. They have been writing together for about a decade.
This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Busload of Books Tour makes stop at Whitmore Lake Elementary School