If you were driving around Western Sydney during September, you may have spotted Russ the Story Bus on the road visiting schools across the area. Last term, Russ completed a 4-week tour taking five authors and illustrators into primary schools to deliver fun, interactive author talks. Students then got the chance to select their very own book from Russ’ shelves to add to their library.
Samera Kamaleddine kicked off the tour sharing how she explores identity and inspiration in her works. Carla Fitzgerald wowed students sharing stories from her books. Matt Stanton talked about the importance of stretching your imagination to create unique and fantastical characters. Kristen Darrell spoke about the stories she’s written throughout her life, from primary school to her career as a journalist and her popular series Football Fever. Charmaine Ledden-Lewis took students through a beautiful illustration workshop and talked about the about the power of pictures and visual storytelling in different languages.
We asked the authors to share their highlights from their time with Russ the Story Bus.
“For me, the highlight was the pure joy on kids’ faces when they realised they were meeting a real life author – a first for the majority of these kids. One boy said to me: ‘I can’t believe I’ve met the person who owns this book!’.”
“My highlight was feeling the joy from the students when they emerged from the bus with their chosen book. A number of younger students asked me if they ‘had to bring it back?’ and the excitement was palpable when I confirmed that no, it was theirs to keep.”
An 8-year-old looked up at me, her face alight with wonder. She had just been on Russ the Bus. She’d chosen a book which had sparked something in her imagination. She was gripping it like she’d just found hidden treasure and was never letting it go.
‘This is the first time I’ve ever had a book that is mine!’ she exclaimed.
Neither of us are ever going to forget this moment.
Stories are my passion – writing them, reading them and sharing them – but most of all, encouraging young people to believe in themselves as storytellers. A week on Russ the Story Bus allowed me to do all of this in ways I could never have imagined. It is impossible to find a single highlight. Seeing every one of the 900+ children’s eyes shining as their imaginations fired up, hands shooting in the air to share their ideas and then later clutching a new book, grins stretching their faces, filled my heart with immense joy.
Riding on Russ the Story Bus for a week was pure delight, from the moment we rolled through the school gates, to the last ‘toot toot’ of our horn as we left. The staff and students we met on our journey were so buoyant, happily engaging in discussions about books, visual storytelling, language and reading! Some favourite special moments that will stay with me from my Russ experience were the burraay – the children – who proudly told me that they were Aboriginal like me. Small moments can have such lasting impacts, and it filled my heart to see pride in their eyes, and books in their hands, as they seized their right to literacy on their journey of discovering the joys of reading.
Russ the Story Bus now heads to the Northern Rivers of NSW to share book and stories with schools recovering from the devastating floods of 2022.