Description & History
Working with low-income students in New York City K-12 public schools, Behind the Book brings authors and their books into individual classrooms to build literacy skills and a new generation of book readers.
Behind the Book offers Standards-based reading promotion programs for students in the 1st-12th grades at eight schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
Our programs occur during school hours in individual classrooms, are taught as part of mandated class curricula and tied to English Language Standards, incorporate multiple author visits and writing projects, and include book donations to students and school libraries.
Over a semester, a classroom receives three to six author visits as part of a project designed by Behind the Book and the teacher, with input from the visiting author(s).
Depending on the project, one author may meet with the class multiple times, two authors may each meet twice with the class, three authors may meet separately with the class, and so forth.
For young students, we use art-and-writing workshops in which students create original work like illustrated books.
With input from the author(s) and teacher, Behind the Book crafts a project curriculum, which the teacher follows between author visits to ensure students are prepared.
Author visits, which last up to two hours, are centered on dialogue and collaboration between authors and students.
We work closely with every instructor to select authors and books that resonate with students, match classroom capabilities, and fit the mandated class curriculum. Jo Umans founded Behind the Book in April 2003 with no seed money but with a vision: To create opportunity for lifelong success for youth through creative reading experiences.
The response from students and educators alike speaks to our success (we have a waiting list of eight schools), as do our year-over-year results: strategic growth, ability to attain profound value from lean budgets, and funder confidence in programming and viability.
In 2006-07, our fourth year of operation, Behind the Book sponsored 94 author visits in support of 26 programs in the 1st-12th grades, and donated 2,350 books to students and school libraries.
We worked with 850 students in eight schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
Seventy-eight percent of students were eligible for free lunch.
Some of the 26 programs Behind the Book produced include: a 2nd-grade Poetry-and-Community Service Workshop; seven Illustrated Book Workshops for 3rd- and 4th-grade students; two 5th-grade School Newspaper Workshops; a 7th-grade Spoken-Word Poetry Workshop; an 8th-grade Writing Workshop; an 11th-grade Spanish Language Literature Program (conducted in Spanish); and a Writing-and-Activism Seminar for 11th- and 12th-grade students.
Authors working with students included, among others, Alison Bechdel, Coe Booth, Colin Bootman, Marina Budhos, Amy Hest, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Kam Mak, Brian Pinkney, Katha Pollitt, Francine Prose, Louis Reyes Rivera, Nellie Rosario, Ernesto Quinonez, Martha Southgate, Colson Whitehead, and Rita Williams-Garcia.
?Reading the book was an inspiration, especially when we are the author [sic] of our own books. I liked Behind the Book because we got to work with real authors.
Colin taught us how to draw lightly and in pencil.
He made us visualize our writing.
He was an inspiration to me, really.
He made me want to. . .write books, read every day.
Just like he said in my book, ?keep on dreaming, and read more.?? ? S.V., 4th grade, on working with author-illustrator Colin Bootman