The Star Democrat
Galena students meet ‘Cookie Chronicles’ duo
GALENA — The students at Galena Elementary School not only felt the joy of receiving a new book in December, they had the added bonus of getting to meet the dynamic duo behind it.
While the husband-andwife team of Matthew Swanson, author, and Robbi Behr, illustrator, may currently be described as “Chestertown-based,” they will soon be taking their books, along with their whole family, on the road, according to a news release.
The team behind titles like “Everywhere, Wonder,” “Sunrise Summer,” “The Real McCoys” series and “The Cookie Chronicles” are preparing for their “Busload of Books” tour visiting all 50 states in a converted school bus.
They plan to visit Title I schools around the country, giving books to students.
Title I schools qualify for additional federal funding due to high numbers or percentages of students from low-income families.
They won’t officially hit the road until next year, but Swanson and Behr gave students at Galena Elementary School — which is a Title I school — a glimpse of what their peers throughout the country will get to experience.
“Robbi and Matthew delivered three engaging and inspiring assemblies. Each
assembly was unique to accommodate the various ages of the audience members,” said Rachel Hopkins, Title I interventionist at Galena Elementary School. “They were even able to meet with a small group of fifth-graders for an informal question-andanswer session. The school was buzzing with excitement all day.”
Using Title I funds and a generous donation from the Galena Lions Club, younger students received copies of “Everywhere, Wonder” and older students took home “Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of
Doom,” the first of “The Cookie Chronicles.”
“Our visit to Galena Elementary School was a huge success. It felt so good to connect with students and teachers in person,” Swanson said. “We gave three assemblies and many elbow bumps and had lunch with a small group of kids who asked excellent questions.”
The visit to Galena Elementary School also was special because it served as the launch for a study being conducted in conjunction with the “Busload of Books” tour.
Sara Clarke-De Reza is an assistant professor of
education at Washington College. She and her colleagues have partnered with Swanson and Behr to conduct a study aimed at answering the question: What is the impact of a one-time author visit on literacy- and creativity-related outcomes for elementary-aged students in Title I eligible schools?
“This project has enormous potential. It fills a conspicuous gap in academic literature around the impact of these one-time enrichment experiences, and the structure of the ‘Busload of Books’ project allows us to explore these questions in a way that reflects best practices in social science research,” Clarke-De Reza said.
Throughout the assemblies and the small group session at Galena Elementary School, Swanson and Behr were asked questions from students about their books and artwork, their tour plans, the creative process and the publishing industry.
One student asked during the small group session how school is important for becoming an author.
Behr said that through classes and reading, students learn about different people, places and things they may not otherwise get to experience.
“School gives you information. It gives you access to different ways of thinking about the world and looking at the world — all of which helps you become a better writer or a better artist,” Swanson said.
As part of theWashington College study, Galena Elementary School students were given surveys to fill out.
Clarke-De Reza and her team thanked Hopkins and the staff at Galena Elementary School for hosting the assemblies that served as a pilot for the larger study.
“Getting to practice outreach, data collection and analysis at a school close to home will improve the experience, as well as the research process, for the 25,000 students and teachers we hope to work with during the next school year,” Clarke-De Reza said.
Swanson said the study could show just how much of an impact author visits have on students. He said the data could help better secure and leverage funding sought by schools and organizations looking to host author visits.
“Any author who has done school visits will tell you the results are clear and consistent — kids get excited and energized about books and reading — but so far, there has never been a scientific study to quantify it,” Swanson said.
Hopkins and the staff at Galena Elementary School saw the excitement the local authors’ visit generated and the impact they had on students.
“Teachers reported a dramatic increase in enthusiasm for reading, writing and drawing. Students realized their potential as storytellers and were eager to write and share their stories. Students could be spotted that day and days after choosing to read Robbi and Matthew’s books independently,” Hopkins said. “They made a profound impact on our students.”
To learn more about the “Busload of Books” tour, visit robbiandmatthew. com.