Like all things at Behind the Book, choosing the anchor texts for our programs is a team effort. Our Director of Programming and all of our Program Coordinators curate a wide array of books for students of different ages. We consider school curriculum plans, existing and needed skill sets, and how well the book or author connects with the kids. The teachers with whom we partner make the final choice from the array of options we provide them.
Our staff starts by looking through our own bookshelves. (Aren’t they lovely?) Authors that we consider favorites – those that we go back to again and again because they connect so well with the students – are a likely pick for us. But we are always looking for new books that match the students’ grade level, abilities, and degree of interest. All of our anchor texts must align with the educational goals that the teachers and administrators of our partner schools have for a specific unit of study. It’s important to us that we choose books with stories that reflect the socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds of our students as often as possible.
We get author and book recommendations from many sources: word of mouth, online research, sample sets that are sent to us by publishing houses, and more. The digital catalog, a new and exciting addition which is officially called librarything, is another resource that helps us find candidates. It allows us to search our library for specific themes, subjects, or authors. We also get input from our partners, like the Vermont College of Fine Arts, which shares book titles and authors we may not be familiar with. Other times, we discover authors and get information about new books we think could be appropriate for our programs by attending literary events, such as the Brooklyn Book Festival! And of course, authors reach out to us all the time.
Once we curate a group of top picks, we pitch them to teachers. Our goal is to find the perfect match for each class. Even if a book is written by an award-winning author who is great in a classroom setting, the book must fit the unit of study in order for us to use it. If we feel that a program needs resources that go beyond the author‘s collaboration, we seek them out. (Class visitors and field trips are just two potential examples.) Behind the Book programs are both custom and intensive – which is what makes them so effective.
All that said, it’s our 14th year of picking books, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it! If you’d like to know what we recommend, follow us on Twitter where we frequently posts lists.