The packing list for John Schumacher’s road trips includes clothes and a toothbrush. But there’s also his laptop, iPhone, iPad, camera, and GPS device, not to mention a slew of apps, from Roadside Presidents and TV Diner to Roadside America.
All enable Schumacher to post to two blogs, Mr. Schu Reads and Let’s Go South ’12, and a Pinterest account. Then there are the Twitter hashtags, #LGS12 and #TheOneandOnlyIvan, and the video postings he made to document his 11-day trip through the American South, a journey that celebrates reading, literacy, and a personal passion for books.
“I love the idea of showing my students I’m a reader out in the wild,” says the school library director at Brook Forest School in Oak Brook, IL, lovably known to his readers and students as Mr. Schu. “I’m not reading in all of these places, but it opens a discussion of reading everywhere, and if you love something, telling people about it.”
Schumacher has been telling people about his passion for five years during his annual road trips with friend Donna Kouri, the school librarian at Longwood Elementary School in Naperville, IL. They’ve traversed all of the lower 48 states, and captured imagesand video, and blogged, tweeted, geocached, and GPS’d their way through libraries and independent bookstores—bringing their followers right along with them.
Every year there’s a mascot, and this time Schumacher brought Ivan, a stuffed version of the silverback gorilla from Katherine Applegate’s novel The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins, 2012). Once Applegate heard her lovable character had been selected, she arranged for a private tour at the Zoo Atlanta, where the real Ivan lives, and Schumacher even got his signature in his book —an ink print made by the real Ivan himself.
“That was cool,” says Schumacher.
Most days Schumacher selects three different books to feature, sometimes donating them to the public library or buying a copy at local bookstores and then asking the owners to give the copy away during the day, as he did with Augusta Scattergood’s Glory Be while traveling through Mississippi. And authors respond, as Sharon Creech and Ame Dyckman did, tweeting their feedback.
With school starting August 20, Schumacher is already back at home and heads for the classroom this week to start preparing for the new year. Luckily, he collects enough material during his summer jaunts to fill up the first two weeks of school, by creating a video of what he’s read and integrating that with book talks with his students.
“It’s like a working trip because we’re uploading video, tweeting and blogging,” he says. “We don’t get much sleep.”