New School Partner

Every day, as students enter PS 241, they walk across a mat that says, “Read as if your life depends on it”.  Could we have found a better match for Behind the Book programs?

PS 241 pinkney

Author Andrea Pinkey working with students at PS 241

We’ve seen this go-getter attitude in the students we’ve worked with. From the second grade class who screamed in excitement when we explained we were going to publish their writing, to the 4th grade class that took persuasive writing to a whole new level by challenging their local bodega to offer a sale on sandwiches, students at PS 241 have read, written, edited and made art with gusto.

We are very excited to partner with PS 241 to build their community of readers and writers.


After School Pilot

As more and more schools extend their day beyond 3pm into after school, our principals have been asking for programs that support and enrich the academics of the school day, and we’re excited to announce that we’re piloting an extended day program at PS 46 this spring.


BtB author Tony Medina signs student books after leading the class in poetry and spoken word in our After School Program at PS 46.

Working in the after school hours allows us to do more sessions than are possible during the school day. This means we are going deeper into content subjects and can do more complex, multilayered projects. For our pilot, veteran BtB author Tony Medina will be leading a poetry and spoken word program with a mixed grade group of third to fifth graders. Be sure to check out their work at our gallery exhibit on June 17!

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

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.

Thank you to Caring Hands!

Our annual newsletter has just arrived from the printer, and it looks fabulous!

We would first like to take a moment to thank Caring Hands – an initiative of healthcare advertising agency Harrison and Star LLC – for their incredibly generosity; for the third year running they have sponsored the printing of the newsletter and we are so grateful for their continued support. Thank you Caring Hands!

If you are not on our mailing list, but would like to receive the newsletter, please complete the following form.

Behind the Book is on the Move!

Behind the Book is on the move!  In 2003, we began with 15 author visits.  This year, we’re implementing a record-breaking 110 author visits!

Those of you who attended our Fall 2011 Benefit heard Charles Blow and Ian Frazier speak about the importance of our programs.  Those of you who have volunteered in our classroom have seen it for yourselves.  And those of you who have supported us have made it possible for 1,000 students in ten under served schools to benefit from what we do.


2011-12 has been a year of incredible growth for Behind the Book. From a new office to new core standards, new program offerings to a growing number of supporters, Behind the Book is embarking on new projects and growing our capacity.

The next several blog posts will be dedicated to chronicling our journey to bigger and better things.

Behind the book is based on the premise that reading books matters- because it improves wirting and communication skills, develops the imagination, teaches us things, and beacuse reading expands a child’s sense of what is possible in the world.

If you’d like to support our work and help us grow, you can do so in several ways:

1. Our goal for 2012-13 is to provide 125 author visits to 11 schools, and 1100 students.  Help us make it happen with a donation today!

2. Volunteer!  During the school year, we’re always looking for classroom volunteers.  Learn more.

3. Attend Events!

Mary Poppins: A Broadway Benefit
Sunday, May 20, 2012

Behind Brooklyn: A Scavenger Hunt
Through Brooklyn’s Best Bars and Bookstores
Sunday, June 3, 2012

Young Executive Board Wine Tasting
Thursday, June 28, 2012