Return to Headlines

The Busload of Books Tour Sparks Literary Magic at CCS Elementary Schools

Busload of Books

December 19, 2023 – On a vibrant day filled with the promise of enchanting stories, the Busload of Books Bus Tour set out on another thrilling adventure, heading towards Westgate and Oakland Park Elementary schools.

As the bus's wheels rolled into these schools, an air of excitement embraced their surroundings, eager to unlock the doors of imagination and create lasting impressions on Columbus City Schools (CCS) students.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has been actively championing literacy among young readers, and their recent Busload of Books Initiative took center stage at Westgate and Oakland Park Elementary Schools.

Sarah Miller, NCTE Senior Coordinator of Book Initiatives, revealed that NCTE plays a crucial role in the Busload of Books Tour by providing teachers with professional development opportunities to cultivate a love of reading among their students.

"In light of the pandemic, my on-the-ground experience has been limited, so this presents an excellent opportunity to enter schools and witness firsthand the impact of initiatives like Busload of Books," explained Miller. "At our conventions, we always strive to connect with local areas, and our strong ties with Columbus made it a natural fit for NCTE to engage with the city, its schools, teachers, and leaders."

The Busload of Books Initiative, committed to cultivating a love for reading and inspiring creativity in students, welcomed acclaimed children's book author Matthew Swanson and illustrator Robbi Bear. They are best known for their captivating storytelling and illustrations in the Real McCoy and the Cookie Chronicles children’s book series. 

Matthew Swanson and Robbi Bear, the visionary minds behind the Busload of Books project, embarked on a mission to bring books, educational enrichment, and empowering experiences to Title I elementary schools. Their goal, as a husband and wife duo, is to make a difference in students’ lives who may otherwise go unnoticed.

"It's truly been an amazing journey," shared Bear. "We've traveled the country, visiting diverse communities in every state. We've found that kids universally desire the same things – to be seen, excited, and explore their interests. They start off enthusiastic and genuinely excited to meet us and learn about what we do."

Angela Martin, Principal of Westgate Elementary School, highlighted the Bus Load of Books Tour's effects on her Westgate scholars.

"We witness the spark of potential careers in our students, especially in writing and illustration," said Martin. "The Busload of Books initiative is a game-changer, poised to inspire a new generation of storytellers and creatives."

The impact of the Busload of Books project has been nothing short of extraordinary. Swanson and Bear have traveled nationwide, observing a universal desire among children to be seen, excited, and interested in learning.

Many of the communities they visited are accustomed to being overlooked, and the bus's arrival brought a sense of excitement and special recognition to these students.

"I don't just see myself as a children's book author, but as someone deeply passionate about bringing the magic of creativity to kids," emphasized Swanson. "It's more than just books; it's about helping children discover their own stories and nurturing self-confidence through the transformative power of storytelling and creativity."

Swanson, Bear, and the NCTE acknowledge literacy's pivotal role in a child's life. Research indicates that a lack of proficiency in reading by fourth grade can significantly impact future opportunities. The Busload of Book Initiative aims to broaden children's perspectives and enhance their understanding of the world by instilling excitement about reading.

Jennifer Ey, Director of Literacy at CCS, highlights the ongoing initiatives to promote literacy, including the At-Home Library program and partnerships with organizations like Scholastic and Highlights for Children.

"Initiatives such as Busload of Books strive to ensure that every student, regardless of their background, has access to books, guaranteeing the opportunity to cultivate a love for reading," said Ey. "The collaboration between authors, educators, and organizations like NCTE is paving the way for every child to discover the magic within the joy of reading."

In collaboration with First Book and the Build-A-Bear Foundation, the tour reached 150,000 books and 125,000 'Reading Buddy' teddy bears, bringing a smile to the faces of students at Westgate and Oakland Park Elementary schools.

These adorable companions have become storytelling sidekicks, illustrating literature's power to ignite young imaginations. With eagerness and anticipation, Robbi and Matthew smile, awaiting to take selfies with students and their new buddies.

"Every story is a new adventure, and we're thrilled to be a part of each one," said Swanson. 

Busload of Books