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Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Bridget Bunten

By Avery Castellani, Riley McHugh, and Bridget Bunten

The Researcher Spotlight series is designed to introduce the public to the many fabulous members of the Busload of Books research team. Washington College student researchers Avery Castellani and Riley McHugh designed a set of questions- here are Dr. Bunten's responses!

What made you want to be a part of the Busload of Books research project?

The Busload of Books research project combines many of my personal and professional passions: reading children’s literature, teaching others about the life and work of authors and illustrators, and traveling. Thanks to Robbi and Matthew’s vision and enthusiasm, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to engage in all three of these passions on a regular basis with my amazing colleagues and students.

How did you get involved in the research?

Nearly 18-months ago, my Education Department colleague, Dr. Sara Clarke-De Reza, asked me to share my syllabus from my Children’s and Young Adult Literature class that I teach each spring semester with her. She explained that she was building some background for Robbi and Matthew’s book tour. One conversation (or Zoom call) led to another and within a couple of weeks, I, too, had jumped on the bus!

How does the Busload of Books project relate to the other research and teaching that you do?

As a teacher and researcher, I am interested in understanding how we can create meaningful and lasting learning experiences for elementary-aged students in the language and literacy classroom. I teach courses about language and literacy development, instruction and assessment, and multilingual/literate learners. Also, I am fortunate to be able to supervise pre-service teachers during their field experiences and internships on their pathways to becoming certified teachers. As a result, I bear witness to the development of their philosophies and practices as they relate to reading, writing, and the language arts. I encourage my college students to embrace their identities as readers and writers, tap into their interests and passions, and use this understanding as they teach others. The Busload of Books tour and our research project are both clearly aligned with that aim.

How have your personal and professional experiences influenced you while working on this project?

I am a teacher educator and the mother of three young daughters...books are a constant in my personal and professional life. As a mother, I strive to provide my girls with access to books that tap into their interests and passions. We have piles of books in nearly every room in our home...mostly graphic novels and books about dinosaurs! My daughters have attended events with Robbi and Matthew, and we’ve enjoyed following them on their tour. While reading at home, we talk more regularly about the authors and illustrators behind the books they read.

As a teacher educator, I am constantly considering the literacy landscape that elementary-aged students face in 2023 and beyond. My participation in this research project allows me to be a part of the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data about students, teachers, and administrators that will inform our understanding of that landscape for years to come. I will in turn share our findings with my students—future teachers who will be better equipped to meet the needs of the young readers, writers, and artists in their classrooms.

What are you most excited to learn about through this research?

Now that we are a little past the mid-point of the tour, it has been thrilling to follow Robbi and Matthew and their family on their journey. With each school visit, I am amazed and inspired by the stories they share about the students, the teachers, and their school communities. In my heart, soul, and mind, I am convinced of the lasting, meaningful, and positive impact of their visits, their books, and their ability to thoughtfully connect with young readers, writers, and authors. I look forward to learning more about the literacy attitudes and motivations of the students at the research schools so that we can use that information to continue the important work of developing lifelong, avid readers and writers through engaging and meaningful literacy experiences.



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