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!


BTB Presents a One-Day Pop-Up Gallery Show

After several months of authors visits, dozens of broken pastels and BtB pencils reduced to stubs, some accidentally glued fingers, and pages of rewrites, Behind the Book’s spring programs finally winded down. As always, students impressed us with their level of creativity and dedication to their work.

Successfully completing a writing-based project is an essential part of our program. It is through the final project that students practice their new knowledge and skills and demonstrate how they’ve mastered those skills.  As regular readers of this blog and BtB supporters know, we most often celebrate these achievements by creating published books of our students’ work.

Publishing helps us communicate several important messages to students: they have the potential to be something they might have thought was impossible (a published author), the world cares about what they have to say, and they have something important to contribute. But creating published books takes several months, and for some of our spring programs, they started too late in the year to be able to publish those books on time. We had to find another way to celebrate our students.


Students of PS 46’s After School Program view their art and writing

We decided that a gallery show displaying art and writing created during these programs would be the best way to celebrate everyone–from our students, to our staff, and our donors as well.

One of our Young Executive Board members connected us to BOSI Contemporary, which graciously loaned their space to us for a day. We spent weeks preparing, even during the big move we had earlier this year. On June 16th, the staff mounted work from several classes and prepared the space.

On the day of the show, we brought the students in the show on a field trip to the gallery to see their work and learn about the work other classes around the city had contributed as well.


Everyone waited eagerly for their turn to enter through BOSI Contemporary’s silver doors.

When they walked in, indescribable expressions of wonder and pride appeared on their faces as they saw their work adorning the walls.

They pointed excitedly at which pieces belonged to them, and their friends.

Students also chose their favorite pieces from other classes.

Additionally, they had the opportunity to read some of their poems and prose out loud. Board president Staci Barber made a speech congratulating and thanking the students and their teachers.

Later in the evening, our donors, faithful supporters, and staff visited the space. They marveled at all the great work the kids had produced.

Annmarie Mcleoud, the librarian of CS 21 and Karyn Nicholson, principal at PS 46, came to support their students and schools and share some kind words about BTB’s programs.


Some of our authors attended as well, including Anne Capeci, Nina Crews, and Sofia Quintero. Each author made a small speech about participating in our programs. Sofia spoke about how much she loves hearing a student express that they didn’t enjoy the ending of her book, because it shows how invested they are in reading her story.

The event was a great success and went off without a hitch. A big congratulations to all our participating students and teachers, thank you to all our supporters who attended the evening event, and a huge, immense wave of gratitude to BOSI’s owner and staff!  We couldn’t be more proud of or more grateful to you all.

Check our facebook for more photos from the show!

Hanky Panky partnership – only three days left!

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching; do you have a present for your special someone? Maybe you’re looking for a way to treat yourself. Or, perhaps you’re looking to support a great cause.

Our partnership with Hanky Panky Intimate Apparel is still ongoing – from now until February 7th a portion of their proceeds will go toward benefiting students in struggling K-12 classrooms all over NYC. At BtB, we are dedicated to connecting students and the authors who inspire them – like JCree Sanders and Zetta Elliot. JCree’s thank you letter, after the jump, epitomizes why we are so devoted to our mission of creating readers for life – “You told us how people underestimate us, and that pushes us even further to pick up a book. Thank you for coming once again, I really enjoyed your company. PS. I know that there’s magic everywhere.”

This Valentine’s, do something great for an NYC student, and still give a great gift.

Thank You Zetta Elliot(Click to enlarge)