Back to school in time for Literacy Day

Back to school in time for Literacy Day

After cleaning out school supply stores around the city over the weekend, NYC’s kids settled into their first full week of school today. They drew their name tags; got to know each other and their new teachers, and then it was time to get down to business. It was time to catch up on some reading after the long summer.

What better way to mark World Literacy Day? World Literacy Day was first designated by the United Nations in 1966, when around 44 per cent of the world’s population was illiterate. Right now it’s around 16 per cent. A great reason to celebrate – if you’re not one of the remaining 16 per cent.

According to an infographic by Media Bistro’s publishing blog, Galleycat, 20 to 30 per cent of New York State’s population was below fifth grade level of literacy in 2012. The latest census by The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that only 47 percent of fourth grade students were at grade level on the NAEP tests in 2013. Only 35 percent of 8th grade students achieved grade level scores and just 17 per cent of African American fourth graders were proficient.

Illiteracy is inextricably linked to the poverty cycle and to help break it, New York City schools have their work cut out for them. At Behind the Book our mission is to help them by bringing accomplished authors and their books into classrooms creating rich, innovative literacy programs. We take our hats off to the passionate teachers and inspiring authors we get to work with.

Writing Visits (5)

With 55 programs planned this year, we’re looking forward to getting our favorite authors into classrooms to meet some truly awesome kids. Wait ’til you see the stories they come up with!

Happy Literacy Day everyone. What are you reading right now? let us know or share it with a fellow reader!


Standing Up and Speaking Out

by Jenna Danoy, Social Media Marketing Intern

Last Monday, we visited PS 76’s fourth graders in Class 401. We had a blast!

These students worked with author Andrea Davis Pinkney. They read her book Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, and then, with her help, wrote their own persuasive essays on topics of their choosing. They wrote about all kinds of things – from the quality of school lunches, to gun violence in America.

Their essays were then anthologized in their very own book, Say It Loud and Proud: Stand Up for What You Believe.

After proudly reading their statements to their classmates, the students all got to enjoy some cookies and have some fun! It was a really great day!

You can see more photos from their event here.


Thank you!

This Saturday, Behind the Book’s Young Executive Board held its annual Backyard Brooklyn BBQ at Freebird Books and Goods! The weather was fabulous, the food was superb, and the people were exceptional!

We would like to thank many people, starting of course with our hosts, Freebird Books and Goods. Thank you for hosting us once more!

Next, we’d like to thank BtheB’s Young Executive Board members for their enthusiasm, energy, and excellence – the three Es needed for a successful party!

And finally, we’d like to thank you! If you came to our event, you’re awesome. Without you, none of the work we do would be possible.

Take a look at some pictures from the event below.

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Coming Soon: Reading Recomendations from BtB Authors

Access to literature is a fundamental part of creating readers for life and, in that spirit, we donate hundreds of books each year to our partner schools. Most of those books go directly to the students in our programs, and we usually donate an additional 5-10 books to the classroom or school’s library. But at the Community Health Academy of the Heights (CHAH), we didn’t stop there.

CHAH was located, at the time, in an overcrowded building on 182nd Street, and it had no library at all. So we took it upon ourselves to make sure these students had access to free books and outfitted CHAH with their own mobile library cart. It was a hit! As Paul Griffin recounted at our 10th anniversary fundraiser, it was so popular that books were disappearing from the shelves.

Since the inception of the mobile library two years ago, the school has moved to a new building, the cart has a permanent home, and so we’re donating over 150 more new books to celebrate.  We started with all the books by BtB authors currently running programs in the school: Matt de la Pena, Paul Griffin, and Patty McCormick. Then we asked the authors, “What books inspired you?” and combined those with the ones that had inspired us over the years in our programs. The final result is a treasure trove of great books, from the classics to recently published teen-lit gems, and we want to share them with you.

Check out our blog all this week for recommendations from the CHAH library and celebrate new books with us!

Volunteer with Behind the Book

We’re rolling out a new feature on our blog today: volunteer opportunities! Click on the “Volunteer Opportunities” link to your left for a comprehensive list of dates for our upcoming programs.

Why volunteer with Behind the Book? We’ll let some of our seasoned volunteers do the talking:

“Thank you for the opportunity to spend a really rewarding hour with those lovely students. I was paired with Mohamed who told me right away, “I don’t think I can do this.” But we persevered, and at the end of the hour, Mohamed had written his OWN (short!) biography of Michael Jordan.

This little story is just one of the many reasons I am so proud to support the great work Behind the Book does, and so grateful for the chance to be a part of it for a day. ” – Casey Cornelius

Casey volunteered in a 3rd grade program where students learned to write biographies with author Andrea Pinkney (they also went on an awesome field trip). Read more about our volunteer program here and be sure to check out the upcoming dates!

Announcing BtB Mother’s Day Cards

Mother’s Day is still a month off, but we’re already gearing up to celebrate the women we love.


Remember when your mom read you a story before she tucked you in at night? This Mother’s Day, honor that tradition by giving the gift of literacy to a child in need. It’s a gift that doesn’t wilt, break, fade, or go out of style; a gift that only appreciates in value. It may be as small as a single book or as large as an entire library but, no matter what its size, its worth is beyond measure.

Your socially conscious gift includes a beautiful, printable card commemorating your donation in the name of your loved one. For more info, visit Mother’s Day Cards

March is for Role Models

March is Women’s History Month, tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and we’d like to celebrate all of the incredibly talented and dedicated women who have worked with us at BtB to empower students.

Our mission is to engage students in reading and writing because literacy and literature open up worlds parallel to and vastly different from our own. Literature is both a doorway to the wider world and a window to the soul; in stepping out to explore, or looking in to reflect, it is invaluable for young people in the formation of identity.

We all need great role models, especially the young girls with whom we work, and we are proud to bring real, successful, published authors into classrooms to inspire students. So, starting tomorrow and throughout the month of March, we’ll be running a series on this blog featuring our female authors. Be sure to check back often for great books by these amazing women!