National Book Foundation’s BookUp
BookUp is designed to motivate young people to stay involved with books and reading for pleasure throughout their middle school years, with the hope they will develop into lifelong readers. The program introduces activities that emphasize reading as both fun and interactive, all designed to improve students’ social/emotional skills along with their reading skills, and build the confidence necessary to become engaged citizens as adults. We have chosen to focus on middle school students because studies show that this is the age when children are most at risk to stop reading. It also a challenging time in terms of development, and reading books that reflect the struggles of pre-adolescence and adolescence enables young people to discuss those struggles in a safe, supportive environment.
All of the BookUp instructors are published authors with extensive teaching experience, and they work closely with NBF and OST program staff on developing creative, reading-based activities designed to inspire young people to make books a part of their daily lives. Participants are encouraged to share their interests, to discuss their previous “reading lives” and suggest books, periodicals and activities for the group.
Sessions are held weekly for a minimum of 24 weeks over the course of the school year in after school programs in five New York City public schools and community centers. In 2010, BookUp began its first site outside of New York City, working in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Brazos Valley and Huntsville, Texas, with graduate fellow Marcos Del Hierro, novelist Amanda Nowlin-O’Banion, and Texas A&M. At all sites, there are field trips to bookstores, libraries and other nearby book friendly locations. In addition to the variety of materials each child receives, they are given a budget of $25 to purchase books at the bookstores they visit on field trips. In New York City, they are given a map of New York City “Reading Hot Spots,” created by Bloomberg in partnership with the National Book Foundation. Ultimately, we hope to create new approaches to developing life-long readers that can be adapted in after school programs across the country.