Returning Teacher, New School

Our authors. Our schools. Our students. Our teachers. Strong relationships power our programs. They are part of why we get invited back year after year to our current schools — and why we are introduced to new ones.

hs girl reading

Earlier this year, a teacher we had worked with took a position at a different high school and, thanks to her initiative, we are there too. Located in the South Bronx, International Community High School serves students who have been in this country no more than four years and are all English Language Learners. The perfect challenge! We specialize in engaging students intellectually through reading and writing while building their confidence and skills. Soon, we expect, we will be calling this new school one of “ours”.


Jo’s Letter

Dear Friends,

As I write this I just signed a lease for office space that’s double the size of our current space and will  hold twice as many desks and more book shelves. We’re happily staying in Harlem and looking forward to more partnerships within the community. We’ll finish up the school year having served 45 classrooms through 166 workshops, so you can imagine how many class books we have in production. Over the summer, we’re redesigning our web site which will launch September.


As the Common Core Standards have become integrated into school curricula, we get more requests for nonfiction programs and we’re very excited because this means we’re doing more research projects than ever before. We bring in volunteers to help students research and begin drafting their writing. I never tire of seeing the kids in deep discussion with our volunteers, learning about a variety of life paths and meeting new people who support our programs in the classroom. “So what does it take to be a lawyer?” was one of my favorite questions from a fourth grader this year.

7th grade boy

Even with this new emphasis, our focus remains the same: engaging students in reading and writing. At a recent book publishing party at CS 21 in Bed Stuy, a crowd of parents supported their children as they strutted their stuff down a red carpet and exchanged autographs. I could tell by the proud look on students’ faces that they felt they had succeeded, and I know they’ll be able to draw from this experience the next time they’re faced with a challenge.

We have recommitted to working with Youth, I.N.C. again this year. Last year, our first, their Celebration program gave our board new tips for fundraising and we raised double our goal. This year’s celebration will be on November 18th at the Waldorf so watch for your invitation.

None of this could happen without each and every one of you. Every donation–from your time, to a $5 donation to a $5,000 donation–goes towards our kids and books for them. Thank you for helping us to continue growing and changing to meet the needs of our students.

I hope you have a wonderful summer and keep reading!

Jo Umans

Executive Director

Moving on up to the Upper (upper) West Side!

Behind the Book has had a hectic week of moving offices, but we’re settling nicely into our new location on 135th street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. If you weren’t able to help us move, don’t worry, we recorded all the excitement for you below.

On The Prowl For An Awesome Volunteer Book Design Coordinator

Looking for a way to give back and gain experience in publishing?  Behind the Book is now searching for a new Book Design Coordinator to mandate the process of publishing books written and illustrated by our students. Working with program coordinators, book designers, and digital printing vendors, the Book Design Coordinator will prepare the text and art produced by students for publication.

This role is perfect for someone with an interest in publishing. Responsibilities include scanning student art and text, copy editing, and proofreading text and layouts. Must be well organized and detail-oriented with excellent written and verbal communications skills, and a good eye for design.

Familiarity with InDesign is a plus.

Examples of our previous student books include:

Say it loud and proud How War Affects Us All cover 3rd Grade Autobiographies Scary Fables Cover Our Dreams Cover







For a full list, check out our student art gallery here.

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Jo Umans at .

*This position requires one day a week in the office and some time from home. There will be a small stipend,commensurate with experience. However, publishing experience not required.

Check out our Spring Newsletter!

In this newsletter, you’ll find a bit of information about how eleventh graders at Community Health Academy of the Heights worked with author Patricia McCormick to create nonfiction pieces related to war in the Middle East.

You’ll also find a letter from Executive Director Jo Umans detailing our progress over the last ten years and thanking everyone for their invaluable support.

We are also very grateful to Harrison and Star’s Caring Hands for their incredible generosity in sponsoring the printing of our newsletter!

You can read the newsletter here.