Eagle Academy: Building a Library

When Jackie Haggins, 8th grade ELA teacher for Eagle Academy for Young Men II, needed help, Behind the Book was happy to assist. Ms. Haggins’ school lost their whole library when their building, which holds several schools, was reconfigured.

Luckily we were able to donate books for the new school library – now housed in Ms. Haggins’ classroom – and she has seen a real difference. “Other kids in the building are now coming to my room to read books,” she said. “It’s increased the amount of reading our students are doing across the board and throughout all grades.”library-1-cropped

Ms. Haggins, who’s been teaching at Eagle Academy for three years, uses the books and integrates reading in multiple ways. “On Fridays we have independent reading, if they finish work early they can read, and they can check out books to take home.” This isn’t the first time Behind the Book and Ms. Haggins have worked together. Last year we set up a program for her class. “It was a wonderful experience. The kids from beginning to end got to become involved in the creative process,” she said. “It helped them to develop more ownership over their writing. I saw a lot of creativity in them that I haven’t seen before.”

Click here to see the work: http://www.behindthebook.org/programs/gallery-of-student-work/straight-outta-brooklyn/

The book that her students created last year is a big hit with her current students too. “I have copies of the books that were made. My students like to read them and talk about them, knowing that their friends upstairs made these books.”

library-3As for the library, Ms. Haggins sees the importance of having books available for students. She likes to see her students use the library on a regular basis. “It makes me happy. I like seeing that they know the library is there. That they know there’s a resource,” she said. “I like that they know that these things are there for them.”

Often times resources as simple as books for students aren’t available to them. Ms. Haggins put it best in saying that if you think children don’t like to read then “You haven’t found the right books.” Behind the Book knows that students love to read and learn.

We welcome all types of book donations, so we are able to help schools like Eagle Academy. (And thanks to Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Hachette, Rosemary Stimola Literary Agency, and so many of you who have made projects like this possible.)library-5-cropped

We may not be able to donate a library to every school but even one book can change a student’s life.

This is the second in our series on partner school Eagle Academy, from Brian Bonilla, a journalism student at Brooklyn College.

Food + Language + Family = Culture

This week, we’re all celebrating history, culture and family with our food. Here in NYC, we’re lucky enough to be located in the most diverse city in the world, with every culture’s food at our fingertips and a great sampling of language and culture.

Many of our students come to school learning English as a second language, and they are often the strongest English speakers in their homes. Behind the Book is here to help – in fact, 20% of our students last year were English Language Learners. We work extra hard to supplement ESL classes with staff and volunteers that speak multiple languages themselves.

At PS 154 in Harlem, working with the same ESL class for the second year in a row allows us to see the impact on – and progress of – the students. They’re tying their language learning to their cultural learning, and getting in some samples of new foods as well!

img_4331Last year, Mark, a third-grader originally from the Dominican Republic, met Jake Perez. Jake wrote Sweet Coco: Dessert With Dad, and shared his story of immigration – and his flan! – with the class.

Jake taught Mark a few words in sign language, including the sign to show agreement. If you put your thumb to your forehead and point your pinky at the person that you agree with, you’re doing it right. If you do it the wrong way, Mark will patiently correct you. (Some of us may have some, ahem, experience in being corrected several times.)

Mark’s classmate, Shayneze, remembers the art class in which they made a chef hat and apron and decorated the clothing with cultural symbols. One idea that resonated deeply with her was that Jake wants to write more books – but first, he has to read more and more books. At the age of 7, Shayneze had already learned that writing takes a lot of effort and many revisions.

Both children were very proud to show us that they’re reading English at grade level. They img_4319showed us their current written work, and the many many books in their classroom. Soon, they’ll be on to chapter books!

Mark and Shayneze are excited to be working with Behind the Book again this year. Their teacher, Ms. Acevedo said they are “constantly speaking about how exciting it was. At the beginning of this school year, they were very happy to hear they would be working with Behind the Book again.” They’ve met Adam Rubin and read Dragons Love Tacos while continuing their study of culture and food to enhance their language learning.

img_9592As the program started, what were they most looking forward to? Their field trip to eat tacos. (Can you blame them?) Both kids were introduced to tacos for the first time, and in the process they learned about corn in Mexican culture. The students are going to go on to research family recipes, and bring in samples at the end of the class to celebrate!

Here at Behind the Book, we’re thankful for bright students like these, and for great teachers like Ms. Acevedo. We’re also thankful for our friends – volunteers, supporters, and partners like you.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

December Reading Series at KGB

These three women will grab you by the brain as they read from their new work. Join Behind the Book on December 8 at 7PM at KGB Bar in the East Village. We hope to see you there!

nicole-dennis-bennNicole Dennis-Benn’s stunning debut novel, Here Comes the Sun, has received widespread critical and popular acclaim and was shortlisted for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and an Amazon Best Book of July 2016.  Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Here Comes the Sun sheds light on the island’s disenfranchised, particularly on the hardships suffered by its LGBT community, as it focuses on a family facing the impending destruction of its community in Montego Bay, a place most outsiders see simply as paradise.  Her work has appeared in The New York Times, ELLE Magazine, Electric Literature, Lenny Letter, Kweli Literary Journal, Ebony, and elsewhere.  She has been awarded fellowships from MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Lambda, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Hurston/Wright, and Sewanee Writers’ Conference.  Her writing has been awarded a Richard and Julie Logsdon Fiction Prize and two of her stories have been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize in Fiction.  She was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York.

“In Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn has written the ultimate antibeach novel . . . . This lithe, artfully-plotted debut concerns itself with the lives of those for whom tourists can barely be bothered to remove their Ray-Bans, and the issues it tackles—the oppressive dynamics of race, sexuality and class in post-colonial Jamaica—have little to do with the rum-and-reggae island of a Sandals commercial . . . The author has a gift for creating chiaroscuro portraits, capturing both light and dark . . . Here Comes the Sun is deceptively well-constructed, with slow and painful reveals right through the end.” – Jennifer Senior, The New York Times

marcy-dermanskyMarcy Dermansky’s wildly imaginative and mordantly funny new novel, The Red Car, was named one of the most anticipated books of 2016 by The Millions.  A razor-sharp exploration of a women’s search for self-realization, The Red Car follows Leah as she undertakes a road trip colored by sex and sorrow and surreal delight to claim an unexpected inheritance from her former boss – a red sports car.  Marcy is also the author of the critically acclaimed novels Bad Marie and TwinsBad Marie was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer’s Pick, a finalist in the Morning News Tournament of Books, and named one of the best novels of the year in Esquire.  Her first novel, Twins, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice Pick.  Marcy’s short fiction has been widely published and anthologized, appearing in McSweeney’s, Five Chapters, The Indiana Review, and elsewhere.  Her essay “Maybe I Loved You” appeared in the best-selling anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York.  Marcy has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and The Edward Albee Foundation.  She is the winner of the Smallmouth Press Andre Dubus Novella Award and Story Magazine Carson McCuller short story prize.  She lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her daughter Nina.

“In vivid, dreamlike prose . . . . Dermansky delivers a captivating novel about the pursuit of joy that combines dreamlike logic with dark humor, wry observation, and gritty feminism.” – Kirkus (Starred Review)

sonya-chungSonya Chung’s masterful new novel, The Loved Ones, is a multigenerational saga about family, race, and difference.  In prose recalling Elena Ferrante or Clarice Lispector, The Loved Ones follows the intertwining lives of Charles Lee, the African-American patriarch of a biracial family, whose connection with a caregiver, Hannah, uncovers her Korean immigrant family’s past flight from tradition and war.  Sonya is also the author of Long for This World.  She is a staff writer for The Millions and founding editor of Bloom, and is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize nomination, the Charles Johnson Fiction Award, the Bronx Council on the Arts Writers’ Fellowship & Residency, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and a Key West Literary Seminars residency.  Sonya’s stories, reviews, and essays have appeared in The Threepenny Review, Crab Orchard Review, Tin House, The Huffington Post, Sonora Review, The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, Short: An International Anthology, and BOMB Magazine, among others.  She has taught fiction writing at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, NYU, the College of Mount St. Vincent, and Columbia University.  Currently she lives in New York City and teaches at Skidmore College.

“A gorgeous multigenerational saga of love and race, loss and belonging . . . Quietly expansive, the novel moves between the stories of the two families, alternating glimpses of the past with the present . . . Every last one of Chung’s characters is wholly alive and breathtakingly human . . . Elegant and empathetic, a book impossible to put down.” – Kirkus (Starred Review)

Who’s Behind the Book?

Our partner, author and illustrator Patricia Keeler, wrote this post about a Behind the Book program at PS46 in Brooklyn. We’re sharing what was originally published on drawntopicturebooks.blogspot.com. All photos below are also courtesy of Patricia Keeler – thanks Patricia!


It’s a good thing Myra Hernandez started her life journey in the mountains of Peru working withimg2 a witch doctor, because it takes a kind of magic to put free books in the hands of hundreds of kids below the poverty line.

Last week Myra and I walked into the classroom and every child was holding Julio Leitao’s and my book DRUMBEAT IN OUR FEET! I’ve done school talks before, but seeing that each child was gifted their own book, made the visit unique.

Myra and I helped the students make a water circle where we stepped into a puddle of river water and called out to our ancestors. We painted a dot on every child’s wrist in memory of a lost relative. The children acted out a tale from the life of Nzinga, a famous African queen.


Next week Myra and I are returning to the classroom for a Draw-A-Thon. We are sketching side by side two different images. The children are guessing from our drawings:

  1. Which elephant is from Africa? I am sketching an African elephant. Myra is sketching an Asian elephant. (Hint: The little ears are a giveaway.)


2. How many types of instruments below are made from gourds?


3. Which animal is a REAL African animal? (Hint: A trick question, but can you name this unique animal?)

1. Number 1 is an African elephant

2. Three instruments are made from gourds – shaker, xylophone, and a stringed instrument called a kora or lute

3. Both 1 and 2 are animals found in Africa; animal number 2 is an opaki, a member of the giraffe family

You don’t need to be published to help out in New York Public Schools with BEHIND THE BOOK. Volunteers are needed for research or writing or art coaches. Here is a link for more information on BEHIND THE BOOK. www.behindthebook.org

And if you do a picture book presentation or volunteer, Myra might take you out to lunch!

Website: www.patriciakeeler-author-illustrator.com
Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

Eagle Academy: Meet the Teachers

Eagle Academy for Young Men II is an all-boys school located in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn. They work with children from grades 6-12, empowering inner city young men to reach their potential academically. We at Behind the Book have the pleasure of collaborating on programs with some of the teachers there.

ms-matinMs. Matin teaches 7th grade and will be working with us for the first time this year. “I did see my colleague, who also teaches 7th grade English, use Behind the Book with his class last year and the kids were so excited and so engaged,” she said. “They loved having this author come in because it’s an opportunity you don’t get all the time. I really wanted that opportunity for my scholars this year.”

Although Ms. Matin says she has a “very supportive staff and principal,” teaching at Eagle Academy, like any teaching job, can have its challenges. Many times the teachers at the school are almost like a second parent. “A lot of the boys are being raised by single mothers and a lot of the mothers are working two or three jobs,” she said.

This lack of a male role model in many of the student’s lives, coupled with the violence and other issues that come along with growing up in the neighborhood, can be obstacles for the children. Having teachers who are motivated and care about the students helps combat these obstacles. Ms. Matin hopes her students will grow from meeting authors during our program with her class. “I want to show my scholars that authors have a purpose for writing and a lot of times they write because of experiences they faced in their lives,” she said. “A lot of our scholars don’t like writing. I want to show them that they can transfer their personal experiences onto writing and perhaps publish their own work one day.”

ms-maxwellMs. Maxwell, who’s been teaching for eleven years, worked with us for four years at CS 21, an elementary school in the same neighborhood. She has seen, first-hand, the effects of our writing and research workshops. “I have seen some scholars open up more, they become more expressive in their writing or with each other.” Maxwell understands the need for children who learn differently to have access to different ways of learning. She spoke about her experience working with us for a particular class. “I loved it. We had illustrators come in and we did a whole segment on creating pictures or concrete poems,” she said. “When the kids are able to see that there’s an actual person that created these things it brings excitement to them.”

She believes it’s helpful for her students to be able to relate their reality to their academics. Maxwell says it’s important for teachers to acknowledge that there’s more than one way to reach their students. However, it’s difficult to teach a large number of children and give them each the proper one on one time that is often needed to learn. Ms. Maxwell, who is teaching many kids this year, appreciates the extra hands that come along with working with Behind the Book and our volunteers. “I conference with each and every one of them. So if there’s 25 of them and I have 90 minutes, it’s impossible for me to do that,” she said. “So if they (BtB) come in that’s maybe 5 people in the room meeting with certain scholars. It makes the writing process go faster.”

We look forward to working with Eagle Academy II this year and hope create an experience that impacts their scholars for the present and future.

This guest blog was written by Brian Bonilla, a blogger, aspiring writer, and journalism student at Brooklyn College who finds time in his schedule to work for Behind the Book! We’ll be posting a three-part blog series on our partnership with Eagle Academy. Stay tuned for more.



The weather is getting cooler and classes are well underway. Here at Behind the Book, we’re looking forward to our annual Celebration Benefit, hosted by Youth, I.N.C.

file_001We hope that you’ll join us on November 15 for what promises to be a great evening at the Waldorf Astoria. In just a few months, this storied venue will close for renovations. An even better reason to attend – your ticket purchase supports our work to bring outstanding literacy programs to kids throughout New York City that need extra support to succeed. This year, we’re serving 1,800 public school students. Our goal is that each and every one of them leaves our program with more skills, greater self-confidence, and a new interest in learning and exploration.

We want to thank our co-chairs for bringing so many friends together to raise vital funds for our organization. We also want to thank our sponsors:img_4068

Signature Bank
Depository Trust & Clearing Corp.
Houlihan Lokey
Doug & Sandy Davidson Foundation
Ian Woolley & Devika Mathrani
Penguin Random House
Casey Cornelius
Anita & Nick Donofrio
Sheila & Michael Gray
Alan & Louise Weil

We do hope to see you there. Please visit our event page to purchase tickets:



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.


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.


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.