November Reading Series at KGB

Our reading series – now in its 12th year at KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village – is going stronger than ever this fall. We’ve invited three authors to read from new works in this intimate space that encourages dialogue on Thursday, November 10 at 7PM.

teddy-wayneTeddy Wayne’s just released third novel, the widely acclaimed Loner, was named an Amazon Best of the Month selection for Literature & Fiction, an Indie Next List selection, and one of the most anticipated titles of the fall by New York Magazine, Boston Magazine, The Millions, LitHub, Glamour, BookPage, and Thrillist. Turning the traditional campus novel on its head as it explores ambition, class, and gender politics, Loner follows a shy, gifted teenager turned dangerous stalker with the momentum of a thriller movie and finesse of a nuanced cultural commentary.  Teddy is also the author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil.  He is the winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship as well as a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, PEN/Bingham Prize, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize.  He writes regularly for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere.  He lives in New York.

“Stunning—and profoundly disconcerting . . . the pleasure of the book is not in its ultratimely plot but in its complicated—and unsettlingly familiar—cast.  These people are nuanced even when they’re disturbing, human even when they’re horrendous.  A spectacular stylist, Wayne is deeply empathetic toward his characters, but—brutally and brilliantly—he refuses to either defend or excuse them.  A startlingly sharp study of not just collegiate culture, but of social forces at large; a novel as absorbing as it is devastating.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

maris-kreizmanMaris Kreizman is the creator of Slaughterhouse 90210, a blog and book that celebrates the intersection of her two great loves – literature and pop culture. She is a writer and critic whose work has appeared in The New York Times, BuzzFeed, The Hairpin, Vulture, Medium, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and more. A former book editor, she is currently a publishing community manager at Kickstarter.

Slaughterhouse 90210 makes explicit something consumers of pop culture already understand intuitively: That the boundaries between high and low culture are often blurred and sometimes non-existent; that images and text that are technically unrelated can still communicate with each other, across platforms and mediums and centuries, in ways that illuminate both; that “television” is more of an idea than a boundary-obeying, clearly-definable thing and “literature” is not exactly staying within the book-margins these days, either.” – Think Progress

kate-angusKate Angus is a founding editor of Augury Books and the author of a poetry collection, So Late to the Party. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in The Atlantic, Tin House, The Awl, Verse Daily, Best New Poets 2010, and Best New Poets 2014. She has received the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s “Orlando” Prize, as well as awards from Southeast Review, American Literary Review, and The New York Times’ ‘Teacher Who Made a Difference’ Award. She is the Creative Writing Advisory Board Member for the Mayapple Center for Arts and Humanities and curates the Pen and Brush Presents reading series for the visual and literary arts nonprofit Pen and Brush. She has received residencies from Interlochen Arts Academy, the Betsy Hotel’s Writer’s Room, Wildfjords Trail, and the BAU Institute. Born and raised in Michigan, she currently lives in New York.

“‘Lift off the roof / of your skull’ writes Kate Angus in this confident, wonderful debut, and I do indeed feel my mind dangerously opened by the clarity and intimacy of these intelligent, warm, sad, funny, genuine poems.  This poet takes us with her as she walks through the world, often alone, often filled with a happy despair, always hopeful, always thinking of distant others, including us, her readers.  This book does not merely describe, but enacts a faith in life, and in poetry’s necessity.  This is the poetry for those of us who don’t just want but need to ‘always and silently unseal everything,’ to see what we can feel and know.” – Matthew Zapruder, author of Sun Dog and Come on All You Ghosts

Behind This Year’s Books

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.

img_4029Our 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 cuimg_4023rate 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.

October Reading Series at KGB

This October 13, we’re lucky enough to have four lauded authors appear in our Reading Series at KGB Bar in the East Village. Join us at 7PM for a full evening of notable new works:

a-maksik-photoAlexander Maksik is the author of three novels: You Deserve Nothing; A Marker to Measure Drift, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for both the William Saroyan Prize and Le Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger; and the just published Shelter in Place, a magnetic novel about the hereditary nature of mental illness, the fleeting intensity of youth, the obligations of family, and the dramatic consequences of love. A contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler, his writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Harper’s, Tin House, Harvard Review, The New York Times Book ReviewThe New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Salon, and Narrative Magazine, among other publications.  He is the recipient of a 2015 Pushcart Prize, as well as fellowships from the Truman Capote Literary Trust and The Corporation of Yaddo.  He is the co-artistic director of the Can Cab Literary Residence in Catalonia, Spain, and his work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

“There’s something truly exhilarating about reading a novel that’s so audaciously original, so inventive and let’s be honest, so sort of weird that you want to put it in the hands of just about everyone you know.  And that’s a perfect description of Alexander Maksik’s stunningly unsettling third novel, Shelter in Place.” – The San Francisco Chronicle

t-murphy-photoTim Murphy’s lauded debut novel, Christodora, a powerful account of the AIDS crisis and its aftermath centering on the venerable Christodora, a 16-story apartment building in New York’s East Village, was an Indie Next Selection and an Amazon Top 10 Best Book of the Month. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and attempts by activists to galvanize a true response to the AIDS epidemic, to the New York City of the future, Christodora recounts the heartbreak wrought by AIDS, illustrates the allure and destructive power of hard drugs, and brings to life the ever-changing city itself. Tim has reported on HIV/AIDS for twenty years, for such publications as POZ Magazine, where he was an editor and staff writer, Out, Advocate, and New York Magazine, where his cover story on the new HIV-prevention pill regimen PrEP was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Magazine Journalism. He also covers LGBT issues, arts, pop culture, travel, and fashion for publications including The New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler. He lives in Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley.

“A powerful novel about the AIDS crisis and its legacy . . . Murphy offers a compelling portrait of the community of activists that transformed queer life in the 1980s and ’90s . . . His depictions of the day-to-day business of activists and bureaucrats have uncommon authority. He vividly captures the diversity and tensions within the AIDS movement . . . No book has made me feel so intensely not just the ravages of AIDS but also the devastating cost of activism . . . Christodora recounts a crucial chapter in the history of queer life, which is to say in the history of American life.  It’s also, for all the despair it documents, a book about hope.” – Garth Greenwell, Washington Post

r-jarrar-photoRanda Jarrar’s debut novel, A Map of Home, was published in six languages and won a Hopwood Award, an Arab-American Book Award, and was named one of the best novels of 2008 by the Barnes & Noble Review.  Her hotly anticipated new book, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, is a collection of stories set in Texas, Egypt, Palestine, Michigan, and other locales that moves seamlessly between realism and fable, history and the present, capturing the lives of Muslim women and men, many of them “accidental transients” – a term for migratory birds who have gone astray – seeking their circuitous routes back home. She blogs for Salon, and her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Utne Reader, Salon.com, Guernica, The Rumpus, The Oxford American, Ploughshares, Five Chapters, and other venues. She has received fellowships and residencies from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Hedgebrook, Caravansarai, and Eastern Frontier. In 2010, the Hay Festival and Beirut UNESCO named her one of the most gifted writers of Arab origin under the age of 40. She grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, and moved to the U.S. after the first Gulf War.

“Jarrar follows up her novel, A Map of Home, with a collection of stories depicting the lives of Arab women, ranging from hypnotic fables to gritty realism . . . . Often witty and cutting, these stories transport readers and introduce them to a memorable group of women.” – Publishers Weekly

“Randa Jarrar does what every brave story-teller should do—she makes sense of what other writers leave outside the bounds.  She connects us with that which others have left unsaid.” – Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and Transatlantic

m-malone-photo-copyMargaret Malone is the author of the masterful debut story collection, People Like You, which was a Finalist for the 2016 PEN Hemingway Award and winner of the Balcones Fiction Prize. In plainspoken American speech, with pathos and humor, the nine stories in People Like You feature dark, troubled women unafraid to puncture the pieties or to confront the void.  Her stories and essays can be found in The Missouri Review, Oregon Humanities, Swink, Propeller Quarterly, and elsewhere.  She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is a co-host of the artist and literary gathering SHARE.

People Like You is a powerful debut by a writer of immense talent.  In stories that shimmer and burn with beauty and sorrow, generosity and wit, Margaret Malone reveals the deepest, darkest, and most illuminating truths about what it means to be human.  I love this book beyond measure.” – Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

Volunteer Like A Boss

With our fall volunteer season about to start, this guest blog by our Volunteer Coordinator Emily Rosenberg will give you the ins and outs of volunteering with Behind the Book. We hope you’ll join us for a workshop — or several!

Like Bill Belichick, Behind the Book coaches lead their “teams” to victory. Instead of plotting strategies for the playing field, though, you’ll guide students as they write, research, or create art. Your support and encouragement make a real difference in getting them to work hard and create to the best of their abilities.

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The rewards come back to you as well. As veteran volunteer Linda Marchand says, “Volunteering often starts out as a way of helping others, but evolves into a two-way street that expands the perspectives of the volunteer and the students.”

Before your workshop date, the Program Coordinator (PC) will email details about what you’ll be doing with students. All you need to bring is your enthusiasm and love of reading.

The PC will provide more details at the beginning of the workshop to prepare you and your students to work together. When you meet your group, please introduce yourself and share why helping in their classroom is important to you.

For research workshops, you might help direct students to online resources or review books for facts. They will most likely have a worksheet to guide both of you.

Or you might accompany the class on a field trip. Our students and volunteers have visited urban gardens, museums, and local landmarks.

For writing workshops, the students will have completed a first draft. The PC will probably send you a list of elements that should be in the writing piece, which will reflect what they learned throughout the program. For example, if the importance of a first sentence was discussed in workshops, you’ll want to be sure the kids’ first sentence makes the reader want to continue.

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BtB’s Teaching Artist (TA) will open art workshops by discussing the style of art in the anchor text or giving some history of art from the time the book takes place. They will also demonstrate the technique, like collage or screen printing, that students will use for the project.

If you’re unsure, don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask questions. Both the PC and the classroom teacher will be there for the entire session.

Your most important role is to offer positive feedback and encourage your students’ progress. Engage them individually, and give them the opportunity to discuss their work.

Your classroom experience will help your students produce thoughtful written work or beautiful art — and just as wonderfully, you’ll get to share their excitement and pride in their accomplishments.

Sign up to volunteer through our brief questionnaire or contact Emily at volunteer@behindthebook.org for more information.

 

September Reading Series at KGB

Kick off the fall literary season with Behind the Book on Thursday, September 8. Starting at 7PM at KGB Bar at 85 East 4th Street, three authors will read from their new work:

JWinter photoJessica Winter is features editor at Slate and the author of the ferociously intelligent debut novel, Break in Case of Emergency, a wry satire of celebrity do-goodism as well as an exploration of the difficulty of navigating friendships as they shift to accommodate marriage and family, and the unspoken tensions that can strain even the strongest bonds. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Bookforum, The Believer, and many other publications.  She is the former culture editor of Time, where she directed print coverage of music, television, books, film, and art and architecture. She lives in Brooklyn.

“It’s the superb insights and penetrating writing that make this book remarkable . . . . Winter is almost vicious in her dedication to truth . . . she lampoons the bourgeois Manhattanites who spend entire careers appropriating social justice movements for branding purposes and nothing else. There are a lot of them out there, and Winter captures their self-regarding bullshit with remarkable precision . . . . Break in Case of Emergency asks the reader to consider whether a person’s problems can be serious and complex and important even though they are everybody else’s problems too . . . . It’s a high-quality tribute to ordinary experience, which makes it an extraordinary debut.” — The Guardian

ANoyes photoAnna Noyes is the author of the extraordinary debut book of interconnected stories, Goodnight, Beautiful Women, which was A New York Times Editors’ Choice, A Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Summer Selection, An Indie Next Pick, and An Amazon Best Book of the Month (Literature & Fiction). With novelistic breadth and a quicksilver emotional intelligence, Noyes takes readers into the inner lives of New England women and girls as they navigate the dangers and struggles of their outer worlds. Her fiction has appeared in VICE, A Public Space, and Guernica, amongst others. A recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has received the Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellowship and the James Merrill House Fellowship, and has served as writer-in-residence at the Polli Talu Arts Center in Estonia.  Goodnight, Beautiful Women, received the 2013 Henfield Prize for Fiction.

“Lucid, sensual . . . If the fiction of Stephen King and Alice Munro had a literary love child, it might look like this: luminous domestic moments married to a pervasive sense of threat . . . Noyes is a master of disturbing juxtapositions that interpolate childhood games with sexuality, suggesting something dangerous in both . . . appealingly frank and astute . . . Noyes’s prose is admirably restrained, and the real drama remains that of character, the mystery we are to ourselves.” —E.J. Levy, The Washington Post

ISmyles photoIris Smyles is the author of two brilliantly funny books of fiction: Iris Has Free Time and the recently published, Dating Tips for the Unemployed.  In twenty-four absurd, lyrical, and louche episodes, Dating Tips for the Unemployed weaves a modern odyssey of trying to find one’s home in the world amid the pitfalls and insidious traps of adult life. Iris was a humor columnist for Splice Today, and her stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, BOMB, The New York Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Best American Travel Writing 2015, among other publications and anthologies. Founder and editor of the web-museum, Smyles & Fish, she edited and wrote the afterword for the cult book, The Capricious Critic, based on a column she commissioned for that site. She lives in New York and Greece.

“Structured in small episodes like Homer’s Odyssey, which serves as an epigraph for the book, Smyles’ adventuress calls to mind a Jane Bowles heroine who’s read Ulysses while scrolling in despair through 10 open apps on her iPhone. Smyles’ portrayal of Iris in all her weirdness offers much to recognize, fear, and embrace. Walking the line between self-obsession and thoughtful portraiture, Smyles explores an inextricable link between sex and loneliness, self-loathing and self-acceptance in contemporary New York.” —Kirkus Reviews

Summer School Means Community at Behind the Book

This summer, Behind the Book produced our own summer school programs for the very first time. The staff is very excited about the programs’ success and looks forward to expanding next year.

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Two of these programs were held in Harlem CLC, with Harlem HeadStart as our partner for these Pre-K classes.  The children read the book Supertruck by Stephen Savage, the story of an unappreciated garbage truck who saves the city during a blizzard. Four workshops per program were conducted, including a special visit from the author and a book celebration at the end. Through worksheets, art projects, readings, and engaging conversations, these students wrote about the special thing about them that no one else knows and created their own superhero capes to represent their power. They shared their superpower with several sanitation workers when they got a special visit from a real live supertruck!

The other summer school program was held in a seventh grade class at The Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change, where the students read the novel This Side of Home by Renée Watson. During the six workshops, including two author visits and a celebration, these kids explored the themes addressed in the book, like gentrification in a historically black neighborhood and resulting culture clash. They used the themes to take a critical look at the recent changes affecting the community of Harlem. Using their own observations and personal experiences, the students wrote poems that celebrate the sweet and critique the bitter aspects of their community.

During my time as a summer intern at Behind the Book, I was lucky enough to attend both of these summer school programs at least once, and what I saw was definitely unexpected. In each class I noticed that the students already had a certain level of attachment and respect for Behind the Book and its staff. Regardless of the project they were completing or the book they were reading, every class asked me (rather hopefully) when I would be coming back. I found myself just as disappointed as they were when I had to tell them that I couldn’t stay.

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Despite it being summer school, none of the students that I worked with seemed annoyed or unwilling to be in the classroom. It became clear to me that these kids did not view Behind the Book workshops as “work” or resent the organization for taking up some of their summer vacation time. This was a place that they wanted to be. A safe, fun, and interactive learning environment. When I asked a certain seventh grade boy what he learned from this program and from Behind the Book overall, he stunned me by responding, “I am learning about the black life that I live… We need to learn about our own community, you know?” I got the feeling that they genuinely wanted to excel in each project, and trusted the staff and volunteers to help them reach their potential.

This guest blog was written by our super-talented summer intern Ariella Hakim, who is returning to Skidmore this fall.

Volunteer Spotlight: Cheri Simon

When Lisa Simon, a long-time producer and director on Sesame Street passed away last year, her sister Cheri Simon was instructed to donate a portion of Lisa’s estate to an organization that represented Lisa’s passions – education and literacy.

Cheri kicked off her search for a local New York City program devoted to children’s literacy right away.  When she read about Behind the Book online, Cheri had a feeling that the organization would be a perfect choice.

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Cheri and Lisa vacationing together.

 

“My sister Lisa had a vision to empower people – particularly women and young girls – to be educated and that’s why she worked to bring Sesame Street around the world,” said Cheri Simon. “The driving force behind everything Lisa did was education and I know Lisa would be thrilled to support an organization like Behind the Book and their mission to inspire students to love reading and writing.”

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Cheri volunteering with a 1st-grade class at PS 98 in Inwood.

Since making the donation in honor of her sister, Cheri, a former teacher herself, has spent time volunteering in classrooms with the Behind the Book team.

Cheri, who describes teaching as a humbling experience, adds: “Volunteering with Behind the Book has been eye opening. I know from prior experience that being a teacher is a wonderful and magical profession; it’s fun to go back to assisting with elementary level students.”

At Behind the Book, our volunteers are so important to everything we do. On behalf of the entire team and students, we can’t thank Cheri enough for her contributions.

This guest blog was written by Kaitlyn Kotlowski, a Behind the Book Young Executive Board member and a volunteer herself.

Student Book Design: Full Circle

There are many unique qualities to Behind the Book, but none more special than the student anthologies that we publish for many hardworking classes. Each finished book enchants the students (and us!) when distributed at the program’s close. Talented designers take the students’ written projects and art; choose colors, layout, and typeface; and use their skills to put the various pieces into a cohesive whole. Here’s a closer look at our culmination projects and the designers who bring our students’ work full circle.

 

Nina Dunhill is a freelance designer and a mom to four children. She had previously spent years at Viking as a children’s book designer, developing skills she put to great use as a BtB volunteer. A 4th grade class at PS 98 studied the birds that live and nest in cities and wrote Unique Birds of New York. The classroom workshops and the field trip inspired a colorful array of artwork celebrated by Nina:

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After attending the celebration at which we hand out the books, Nina said, “It was so rewarding to see the pride on the artist/author/student’s faces when they found their page in the book. They were so thrilled—I had a smile on my face for days and am so happy to have been able to be a small part of it!”

 

Rachel E. Reiss is a friend of our own volunteer coordinator, who knew that Rachel had over 20 years in the book design business. We were grateful for her skills when she worked on two different books in 2015. This year, she designed this jewel for a class of 4th-graders at PS 125:

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In our opinion, the celebration for this book ranked among the best celebrations we’ve ever had. The teacher, Ms. Williams, decorated her classroom to look like a jazz club, to bring the students into the world they had researched so diligently – and the student book that they were celebrating brought their carefully crafted ballads and portraits to life.

 

Graphic designer Sabrina Nacmias is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn. She attended NYC public schools from kindergarten through high school, and now wants to give back to her city as part of her professional life. Behind the Book fit her design ideology because “Inside of design I really love storytelling—I think good design is all about telling good stories.”

Sabrina worked on Rebellion Justified? with a group of 7th graders who learned about the Khmer Rouge and one boy’s struggle to grow up under their rule. The program’s theme of rebellion carried into the artwork, with the students choosing to work with or against the rules of a paint-by-number kit. The results are stunning:

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We were surprised to learn that Aparna Nathan is a student when we saw her polished work. The book that she designed for a group of 1st graders was an inspiration for the students, who put extra effort into their writing and their art. The effort shows! We don’t often publish books for the youngest students, but one child from Ms. Hossack’s class told us “We worked hard on our writing because we were making a book and we didn’t want it to be sloppy.”

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A recent graduate of the University of Toronto, Sara Loos designed a student book long distance. A Flash Quandary was a particularly big project, combining three classes’ work into one student book. Nearly 100 pages long, the book includes the work of 81 students. Sara was “so thrilled to have been involved with this project, it’s so wonderful to see you encouraging a new generation to express themselves creatively in a safe space.” The stylistic collages that emphasize dark and light are integrated into the pages of the students’ flash fiction, merging words and colors:

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Behind the Book published 20 books for 728 students this past school year. We could not do this without the designers’ support – and yours. If you, too, have professional services to volunteer, please click the volunteer link on our main page, or email our volunteer coordinator at volunteer@behindthebook.org.

What’s Crackin’ in the First Grade?

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Author Roxie Munro discussing artwork.

During the last few weeks of school, Ms. Vazquez’s first grade classroom at P.S. 98 in Inwood was the place to be. That’s because her 29 students became the proud parents of six baby chicks and everyone in the school – teachers and students alike – wanted a peek.

The chicks were the centerpiece of a program we developed around Roxie Munro’s Hatch! – a fantastic book that features detailed illustrations and descriptive text about different birds, their eggs, their incubation and brooding techniques and other various habitats. Roxie talked to the class about the incredible amount of research that goes into each of her books. She even shared one of her interactive “walk-in books” that consists of life-sized panels of her illustrations, so that children can feel truly immersed in the world she’s created. In addition to the birds in the book, the children also learned about feathered friends in their own backyard with a trip to Inwood Hill Park. Led by an Urban Park Ranger, they spotted grackles, mallards, and starlings.

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But the class’s main focus throughout their ornithology journey was their very own hatch project. For 21 days, the students waited patiently, checking the humidity and temperature of their in-classroom incubator. Every week they “candled” the eggs, using an LED light to observe stages of growth occurring inside. Then, using hatch journals, they wrote about their experience, making observations and predictions about what they saw and what they expected might happen. As part of their writing project with Behind the Book volunteers, the children wrote their chicks letters in anticipation of their arrival. Finally, on day 20, the class observed their first “pip” – a small crack in the egg made by one chick ready to meet his new friends.  The five others quickly followed and within three days all had hatched – fluffy and healthy.

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One of the six most-loved baby chicks in NYC.

It should come as no surprise that there were 29 separate names for the class pets. During our last visit, the children gathered in small groups around each of the chicks for one final petting and goodbye. The chicks were then transported to Brooklyn and donated to the City Chicken Project, a part of Just Food’s Urban Agriculture Program, which helps educate chicken keepers in NYC.

The program was memorable for all involved and we anticipate more than a few requests for a Hatch! project next year.

This is a guest post by BtB Program Coordinator Shana Druckerman, who developed this delightful program.

 

From Hollywood to the Bronx

Author Gayle Forman is no stranger to Hollywood, having served as an Executive Producer when her novel If I Stay was made into a movie. She’ll get another peek at the glamorous life soon, with her second movie in the works. But we’re most interested in the fact that she’s eager to return to a BtB high school next year, after finding her first experience in the classroom with us both thrilling and rewarding.

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Gayle worked with 11th grade honors students at the Collegiate Institute for Math and Science (CIMS). They studied I Was Here as part of a career unit; a class in which students learned to develop resumes and craft personal statements. Our program used the novel as a model to develop narrative voice in the students’ original writing. The class was allowed to choose whether they wrote fact or fiction, but were assigned to develop pieces with the voice of a teenager.

In addition to the author workshops that Gayle led, the students created personal collages with a BtB teaching artist and participated in a peer editing session – all of which led up to the publication of one of our popular student anthologies. Though BtB has worked with CIMS and the teacher, Alicia Lerman, for five years, this was the first student book that we published with the school. The response was exceptional – the students swelled with pride; the teacher and principal were thrilled, and one of the school administrators was moved to tears. Of course, Gayle brought cookies to the celebration.

Behind The Book-16Ms. Lerman said, “As their teacher I learned my students deeply appreciated a creative outlet, and the opportunity to meet a rockstar of an author, and the chance to read (and keep) and discuss a high interest novel.”

We all can’t wait for Gayle to return next year. Additional thank to Angelica Vasquez for photographing the book celebration.