A couple of weeks ago I did an interview with a librarian on how to get your YA book into libraries. Today, I’m talking with Teacher Joy N. Hensley, who has taught at both the middle school and high school level. If that’s not enough, Joy is also a YA writer represented by Mandy Hubbard. So, let’s get busy convincing Joy to spill her secrets on how to get our YA books into classrooms!
1) As teacher, do you ever buy books for your classroom? If so, do you use your own money, or are you allotted a budget through the school?
I buy books for my classroom all the time. 99% of the money is out of pocket. I rarely, rarely get money through the budget. For example, this year alone I’ve spent (looks at receipts) over $500 of my own money on new books for my classroom. Since this is my seventh year teaching, you can tell I’ve spent a lot of money to update/improve my classroom library. Also, this is the first year I’ve actually gotten some money from the budget for books–the four language arts teachers in my grade got $800 to split four ways for books. I have gotten class sets of books through a website called Donors Choose that were completely paid for by gracious donors, but most of it is definitely out of my own pocket. *sad face*
2) Wow, that’s awesome that you’re willing to pay for the majority of the books for your classroom. Considering how important your kids are to you, and considering you foot the bill for said books, how do you decide which to buy? Speaking with other teachers? Personal tastes? Book reviews?
Sadly, there are only two other teachers in my school who read as much YA as me. We recommend books to each other, but the majority of the books I buy come from two places. 1. I really browse the YA section of the bookstore looking for good covers. I know that’s horrible, but I don’t have time to read them all, so I have to go for things I think will catch my kids’ eyes and hope they’re really good! 2. The second place I get recommendations for books is from Twitter. Crazy, I know, but I’m a writer, too, so most of my friends on Twitter are writers. I pay close attention to what they’re writing/reading/recommending. Those recommendations hold a lot of sway with me, even getting me to consider genres that I normally wouldn’t (like sci-fi). Sometimes I go for specific things, for instance, this year I searched for a lot of “boy books.” In our school library, and my classroom library specifically, I am seriously lacking in that area. I looked hard for books that were short, had a great hook, and would be something my kids would “get.” I live in a really rural, low income area, so some books/topics just don’t work well here. Sadly, there are few redneck-main-character books with cow tipping in them….
3) Do you ever receive ARCs from Netgalley or from authors/publishers? If so, do you read and consider them for your school? In other words, if an author/publisher sent you an ARC, could it increase that book’s chances of ending up in your classroom?
I have never gotten any ARCs from Netgalley, but have gotten some from author friends. Yes, they definitely influence me being able to get them into my classroom. Usually, if I read an ARC I love, I will also buy it for the school library when I’m buying the copy for my classroom library.
4) That’s great to hear! Now, tough question, how much freedom do you have when choosing books for your classroom? Do things like school board advisers, principals, or parents limit what you can introduce?
Oh, great question! I am much more free with my classroom library. Mostly because I just buy and don’t ask anyone! (shhh..I didn’t say that!) I mean, I think practically. Right now I’m teaching 8th grade so I probably wouldn’t have, you know, 50 Shades of Grey on display or anything like that. But something like Catching Jordan by Miranda Kineally would go in there for my more advanced readers. I find that my students need a lot of guidance, so if I know the content of a book, I can steer them in the right direction. If a student of mine picks up a book I think they’re not ready for, I’ll make them get parent permission before I let them read it. For example, one of my 8th graders wanted to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo–I don’t have it in my classroom, but I’d been talking about it because the movie was coming out. He downloaded it on his Kindle and started reading it. I didn’t think he’d get to THE PARTS but I wanted to make sure his parents were aware of what was in the book since the movie trailer didn’t really explain any of that. So I censor a little bit, but I definitely have books with sex/cussing/drugs in them. If the kids can’t read them responsibly and maturely, then I just take them back or contact parents. As for the school library, if I have a book I want to give them, I run it by the librarian first with my thoughts/concerns on the matter and let her make the final decision. Apparently I had a lot to say on this subject!
5) That answer was fabulous! My final question is, what can authors do to encourage teachers to read and buy their books for classrooms? Any and all suggestions are welcome!
Wow, tough question. I think the best way is to get the word out that these books are available for preview. Until I started seriously writing, I had no idea authors would let teachers read ARCs, electronic or otherwise. I only thought newspapers and magazines got the magical copies before you could buy them. Put notices on author websites offering early copies to teachers, Tweet about this, shout it from the mountaintops! Maybe e-mail librarians/teachers on a local level to get things started, then branch out, just a quick e-mail offering an advanced copy. It could be a form letter to all the English teachers in a district, or all the librarians. To make it easier, you could even e-mail the curriculum coordinator–that person at central office that is in control of English/Language Arts for the district. They, in turn, can e-mail all the teachers they’re in charge of. Basically, I don’t think teachers even know it’s an option to preview these books. A handy cheat-sheet that would go to teachers might help as well–rate the book, give an age range, let us know if there’s sex/drugs/cussing and how much in the books, just so we know if it’s even an option for our grade level. You may get lots of no responses, but if it’s just a form e-mail, those teachers who are interested will definitely write back!
Thank you very much, Joy!
Hope you guys found this interview helpful.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! 🙂