A Family Driving a Busload of Free Books Cross Country Includes Stops in New England
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions or personal experiences.
Imagine spending several months traveling in a 24-foot school bus with 5 people. Okay, maybe if you're a deadhead you actually can.
As for Matthew Swanson, Robbi Behr, and their four children, they're kicking off their inaugural "Busload of Books" travels this year, and New England is in the beginning of their nationwide tour.
Matthew and Robbi write and illustrate children’s books, and told me they plan to give away 25,000 of their hardcover books to schools in low income, underserved communities.
Their stops in New Hampshire include Milan and Shelburne Mariah Mountain. In Maine it's Deer Isle and Waterville, and Massachusetts stops are on the Cape and in Boston. This is all thanks to First Book, a non-profit that helped the couple identify schools in need.
This is all happening for the 2022-23 school year, when the family will crisscross the country in that 24-foot Thomas school bus. September is when the bus is in New England.
The bus has a galley kitchen, rooftop pop-up bedroom for their children, and a place for them to sleep, too.
Notice I didn't mention a bathroom? Matthew told me there wasn't room when they equipped the bus, but with rest stops, grocery stores, and restaurant stops, all should be just fine, fingers crossed.
We have no idea what we're doing but it will definitely be an adventure. Seriously though, it's been a dream to travel the country and visit Title I schools because supporting public education is crucially important to us. In our careers we've discovered how underserved these schools are books-wise because they simply can't afford them, and a study with Washington College measuring author/illustrator visits proves the importance of this kind of tour.
Robbi told me that in 2019, they received a no-strings-attached $30,000 grant and were told to use it to “do something awesome.” So, thanks to grassroots donations from more than 1,000 people, the dream of donating books to Title I schools in person is officially a go.
For more info on this incredible journey, check out this hilariously creative and informative two-minute video.
For a list of their books, click here.