Hartford · In the State

Connecticut Parents Union Parent Express: ‘Tis The Season To Be Reading’ Bus Tour Spreads Empowerment and Holiday Cheer

“There is greatness on the inside” — not only a quote from the Byron V. Garrett book being read throughout Connecticut this week, it also describes what’s going on inside the Connecticut Parents Union’s Parent Express “Tis’ the Season for Reading” bus tour.

For the past five years, the Connecticut Parents Union, a parent advocacy organization, has organized the “Parent Express ‘Tis the Season To Be Reading” tour. The event is a community-oriented Holiday bus tour that focuses on literacy and empowerment. It’s become a staple of the holiday season, though this year, Connecticut Parents Union founder Gwen Samuels says, is special.

“The politics can be so heavy at times,” said Samuels, who’s no stranger to heavy politics. Samuels was instrumental in advocating for the Connecticut’s “parent trigger law” that established  School Governance Councils.


“we are making sure we’re engaging students and families across the state,” said Samuels. “We want to make sure that lawmakers, especially with the new president-elect and his cabinet, as well as the upcoming legislative session for Connecticut… that they don’t forget the children and families.”

Equipped with a party bus decked out like a mobile classroom, a group of parents and students volunteers will be making their way across 10 cities, reaching thousands of students. This week, over the next four days, the group will be giving out books, reading stories and putting on presentations.

Their mission is to bring together parents, community partners, social workers, educators, and schools across the state to promote the importance of equity in education, literacy, and reading, and, most of all, community empowerment and civic engagement.

Do You Have What You Need To Be Successful?


“I would like to hear from you… The world might tell you to pretend that all is well, but If you need support. We as the adults need to be supporting you effectively. Do you have what you need to be successful?”

This was a question posed by Samuels to a cafeteria full of about a hundred middle school students at Dr. Frank T. Simpson-Waverly School in Hartford, Connecticut. Simpson-Waverly School was one of the stops on the first day of the four-day bus tour. It is also one of the schools which was once slated for possible closure as a part of Hartford’s Equity 2020 initiative (which has since been halted).

The room fell silent until Samuels asked, “do you think adults listen to you?” — one reluctant student said “yes.” Another, more frank student, shouted, “liar.” Many more agreed, they don’t believe that adults are listening.

“Right now it’s going to be an equity fight in Connecticut,” said Samuels. “ A judge ruled that many aspects of Connecticut’s education formula and public policies are unconstitutional for poor children. This session will be about a tough budget and at the same time we’re trying to protect all children.”

for more on CCJEF here are links to past coverage: Will Things Really Change? CCJEF Appeal Or Not Bridgeport Needs Act  & Poll Show Majority of Connecticut Voters Want Legislature To Act On CCJEF Decision

Connecticut’s legislative session begins on January 4th. Considering the recent ground-breaking Superior Court decision on education funding (CCJEF v. Rell) and subsequent state appeal,  It’s likely that there will be a focus on education spending.

The tour began Wednesday, December 14th and will continue on until Saturday. The bus will be making stops throughout the state, including in Bridgeport, Norwalk, New Britain, New Haven and West Haven.


Stay tuned, more coverage to come!


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