If you haven’t been following the adventures of Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson on social media, or come across one of the wonderful children’s books, you’re missing out on some serious and educational fun. For more than fifteen years, the husband and wife creative team have been writing and designing books for children, first as their own publishing house, Idiot’s Books and Bobbedy Books, and now with the venerated Knopf publishing house and others.
Two of their recent books, Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom (Knopf) and Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Endless Waiting (Knopf), have been well received. A third, Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection (Knopf) will be out in December, with more on the way.
But it’s not just their many engaging children’s books they’re up to now: it’s the mission they are about to undertake as book ambassadors trekking across the US in a custom designed school bus decked out as mini-home.
The idea was inspired by their engagement with Kent County schools and recognizing the need for kids in Title 1 schools to have positive and fun learning experiences.
In the Kent County’s Public School system, all elementary and middle school students are eligible to receive Title I services as a result of each school having a Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS) participation rate of 50% or higher. For instance, Garnet Elementary qualifies with 88.25% of students eligible, Rock Hall Elementary, 94.74%, Galena Elementary 58.39%, and Kent County Middle School 51.17%. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 50% of the public-school population in the United States is made up of low-income students.
After meeting with students locally, Robbi and Matthew realized their engagement had a significant impact on creativity and learning. Knowing half the schools in the US receive Title 1 funds and are subject to underfunding issues, the creative duo wants to make a difference by engaging and getting book to as many students as possible during their cross-country odyssey.
Additionally, the road-trip, planned for next year, will be studied by Washington College’s Education Department to gather data to be used as a resource for other authors and as creativity and literacy impact studies used for grant applications.
The Spy recently spoke with Robbi and Matthew via Zoom,
This video is approximately seven minutes in length. For more information about Robbi and Matthew please go here.