July 26, 2018
Behind the Book, a non-profit that brings authors to underserved classrooms, needs help!
by Emily Hoffman
As August creeps closer, the end of summer looms, promising of cooler days, Labor Day sales, and, for some, the end of summer programs. At eight public elementary schools across New York City, students are preparing to publish their first books with the help of Behind the Book, a literacy non-profit started in 2003. The organization provides books to schools, and then invites the authors to discuss their work with the students and help them write original pieces of their own. At the end of the program, the pieces are printed in an anthology and every student gets to take home a copy.
Behind the Book’s mission is “to inspire New York City public school students to love reading by bringing accomplished authors and their books into classrooms and creating rich, innovative literacy programs.” Their program, designed to meet Common Core Learning Standards, sends each author to visit a classroom twice: once to discuss their writing process and book with the students, and once to help them write their own stories. Participating authors have included Colson Whitehead, Patricia McCormick, and Victor LaValle.
In the past year, Behind the Book has produced twenty-two anthologies of work from 700 students. In a city where seventy-two percent of low-income third graders read below grade level, the experience Behind the Book provides goes a long way in engaging students and motivating them to want to read. Their summer programs are especially important in combatting summer slide, where many students regress because they’re not engaged while out of school. In addition to their summer programs, this year Behind the Book gave out over 3,000 books to elementary and middle school students as summer reading. All of these efforts encourage children to expand their reading and writing skills.
Like many kindred organizations, Behind the Book relies heavily on the work of volunteers — and volunteers are especially in demand right now, as the organization readies authors for their second vists to summer program participants. So far this year, nearly 500 people have shown up to lend a hand. If you’d like to be one of them, sign up on their website today.
Emily Hoffman is an intern at Melville House.