Teachers and ARCs

*This is a revised and updated version of a post I published on the blog back in 2011.  

I feel like I walk a fine line as a blogger sometimes. First and foremost, I am a bibliophile.  But I am also a high school English teacher, a lover of technology, and a book reviewer.  Because I review books that I receive from publishers and at conferences, I am fortunate to receive ARCs, or advance review copies, sometimes.  This means I get to read and review some books before they are published.

ARCs and review copies I picked up at NCTE this past November. All ARCs went to my classroom library.

I teach at a fabulous high school that shares a campus with the local community college.  We do not have a school library, but the students have access to the campus library at all times.  This means they can access databases, journals, and other periodicals that most high schools can’t afford.  But it also means that they do not have a library geared towards high schoolers.  There is no YA section, no popular fiction section, no best-sellers shelf.  Thus, my classroom library is utilized by many students in my school of almost 300.

All over the country, education budgets are being slashed, teachers are having their pay cut, and school librarians are being RIFed.  Classroom libraries, which are almost always to be teacher-funded (out of teachers’ own pockets), are certainly suffering.  However, research shows that classroom libraries are vital – they encourage students to read more!  We need to do everything we can to encourage students to become lifelong readers.  But it takes a village to raise a reader.

According to research, school libraries should provide at least 13 books per student. That means I need 3900 books for my students!  Those books should be age-appropriate, showcase a variety of genres, support the curriculum, and reflect student interests. I am going to be honest here- I can not afford to purchase the dozens of books my students need every year.  I pay for all of the books in my classroom library, just like most teachers.  In my case, I am very lucky because I do receive review copies and ARCs, from publishers and at conferences like NCTE.  For other teachers, this means ordering from Scholastic, visiting warehouse sales, soliciting donations from students/parents, and looking longingly at those new titles in the bookstore but knowing it’s impossible to buy them all.

As a blogger/reviewer, I know I am extremely lucky.  I have access to review copies and ARCs, which are all placed in my classroom library.  Publishers value the “buzz” that is generated by these early copies and my students love that they get a chance to read books before they are officially published.  I start the year by explaining what ARCs are and showing the students some unfinished copies.  My sixth-graders and my high schoolers both understood that ARCs are not finished works and may differ from the final draft.  But ARCs work wonders with readers.

ARCs are magical.  Nothing hooks a reluctant reader like the promise of reading a story before the rest of the world has access to it.  That, plus the knowledge that they can share their thoughts on Goodreads is the best motivator I have!  I utilize ARCs almost daily in my classroom.  At the beginning of the school year, I explain ARCs to my students.  We analyze a few older copies (whatever hasn’t fallen apart from the year before) and note the differences between ARCs and finished copies.  This ensures that the students are aware that ARCs are not final copies and may have errors in them, lack illustrations, and so on.  The students are usually fascinated by this because they have not had access to ARCs in the past or never knew they existed.

I show the students our ARCs shelf and explain how it will be updated whenever I get new ARCs.  I tell the students that they are free to borrow ARCs at any time, but there is one requirement: they must share their ARC experience after reading it.  This can mean writing a review on Goodreads, passing the recommendation on to a friend, or ordering a finished copy of their own.  Whenever I get a new ARC, I try to booktalk it before placing it in the library.  As soon as I mention “ARC”, students wake up and pay attention.

ARCs help me decide how to develop my classroom library collection, too.  If an ARC catches fire and is passed from student to student, falling apart as it moves through the class, I know I need to order a few finished copies.  This happened with The Hunger Games when I taught 6th grade. My single ARC was in tatters before the finished copies were published, long before most people knew who Katniss, Gale, and Peeta were.  I knew I would need more than one copy on my bookshelf because the ARC was so popular.  Needless to say, I was right.  More recently, my ARC of Matthew Quick’s Boy21  became popular with many of my students and I made sure to purchase a finished copy for the classroom library. If an ARC has a small, but dedicated, fanbase, I make sure I put a single copy in the classroom. If an ARC has a rabid following, then I will try to find more than one copy. ARCs usually last a season or two in my classroom before falling apart, so it is imperative that I replace the most popular and well-loved ARCs with finished copies!

Unfortunately, many teachers don’t have access to ARCs because they don’t blog, can’t afford to attend conferences, and aren’t aware of local publisher previews.  That is why I started #ARCsFloatOn.  ARCs can not be cataloged in libraries (public or school) because they are not finished copies.  They also can not be sold.  Thus, many reviewers end up throwing ARCs away after they read them, often long before the finished copies are produced.  There are thousands of teachers across the country who are dying to give those ARCs a second chance.  They put them in classroom libraries, give them to student groups, and use them to make collection development decision.

#ARCsFloatOn encourages reviewers to recycle those ARCs and get them into the hands of kids and teens!

ARCs Float On is a grassroots effort by  me, a Reach A Reader Advisory Board member.  The program aims to get ARCs into classroom libraries by matching willing donors with needy teachers.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Teachers interested in being contacted by donors may register here. Your information will be vetted and added to our searchable database. Reviewers with books to donate may search the database for schools. Donors are then responsible for contacting teachers with a list of the books they have available, and to arrange for shipping or dropoff of the books–it’s up to both parties how to “float” the ARCs. Donors are responsible for all arrangements and shipping costs. We just provide you with the means to connect.

I’ve shipped many middle grade and elementary ARCs to other teachers, using Priority Mail flat rate boxes.  For approximately $11 I can ship 15-20 books to another teacher.  Most of the time, the teachers are willing to pay shipping costs, which makes it even easier for the donors.

If you are interested in donating books, you may check our database at the #ARCsFloatOn website.

By donating the books that you receive for free, you are promoting awareness of great books and authors, helping teachers and librarians, and encouraging more reading. You can learn even more about this initiative through the Twitter hashtag, #ARCsFloatOn.

I can’t imagine not having the opportunity to share ARCs with my students.  Like a librarian or bookseller, I am constantly handselling books to my students.  A highly coveted ARC can turn into 10-20 book sales within my school.  But more importantly, at least to me, an ARC can turn  a dormant reader into a voracious reader.  Having the opportunity to read a story and share an opinion before the general public can attract dormant readers to my classroom library.  And reading one book can lead to reading another.  It can lead to a student finding a favorite author or a genre they enjoy.  And that means we all win.  This is why e-ARCs don’t work for me.  I need paper copies because e-ARCs expire and can not be shared with my students.  I would hate to see paper ARCs eliminated.  Instead, I want to see paper ARCs getting a second and third chance at life in classroom libraries!

*#ARCsFloatOn is endorsed by many of the major publishers!  They are happy to see ARCs getting into the hands of students. :)  ARCs can not be cataloged in a library, but classroom libraries are a-ok.  The ARCs don’t last long (a season or so) and most teachers then end up purchasing a hardcover copy.  Again, a win-win for publishers and students alike.

Other posts I have written about using ARCs in the classroom:

#ARCsFloatOn- How Bloggers Can Help

ARCs and Authors, Bloggers and Blogs! My Oh My!

#BEA11 Recap

This past week I made my annual pilgrimage to BEA, BookExpo America, at the Javitz Center.  I am lucky in that I live a short train ride from NYC, so each year I manage to take a personal day and spend a few hours at the conference.  It’s a crazy conference- huge, crowded, huge, and oh yeah, crowded!

I requested this ARC from Candlewick- perfect my senior class disaster unit!

Wednesday morning I made my way to the train station and was in the city by 9:30am.  I had made a plan with Teresa (@trkravtin) to meet at the Candlewick booth at 10am.  Teresa and I have been talking on Twitter for a while now and it was great to finally have a chance to meet.  I quickly walked the few blocks to the Javitz Center and picked up my badge without a problem.  It was 10am on the dot when I made my way onto the exhibit floor.  (Nice timing, huh?) Candlewick was easy to find so I began the day browsing their ARCs.  Sadly, I missed the galley giveaway for Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd but I did pick up a few other ARCs.  And at that point, Teresa was there!

Teresa and I chatted for a little bit and she is just as wonderful in person as she is on Twitter. :)  But time is valuable at BEA, and we parted ways so I could start walking the floor.  I had planned to go to Ally Condie’s signing but when I saw that the line was wrapped around half the Javitz Center, I decided to skip it and just wander around.  I knew I had about 20 minutes until Mary Pearson’s signing and I really wanted to meet her, so I did a quick lap around the center.  I picked up an ARC or two, including Daughter of Smoke and Bone, signed by the wonderful and pink-haired Laini Taylor.  What a sweetheart!

After my inital lay-of-the-land walk, I made my way back to the Henry Hold booth and got on the line for Mary Pearson, who would be signing The Fox Inheritance (The Jenna Fox Chronicles).  I am a huge fan of Pearson’s writing and I had tweeted her that I would be stopping by her line.  Of course, I forgot to mention that I am unbearably shy in situations like that so I would not dare mention my name when I got to the front of the line.  When it was my turn, I passed my book to her and mumbled how much I love her work.  Thank goodness for name tags, because the awesome Mary Pearson read mine and recognized me right away!  She is a sweetheart and I can’t wait to read The Fox Inheritance.  We chatted briefly and promised to keep in touch.  Her line was long and I didn’t want to take up too much of her time, so it was time to go walk the floor some more.  As I left the booth, I also picked up a few adult ARCs for my students.

Walking away, I overheard someone say that Jimmy Fallon was signing copies of his new book a few rows away.  I didn’t need a copy of the book (and it turns out they had already run out of copies anyway), but I did walk by and take a quick picture of him. After that, it was time to head to Scholastic to scope out the scene.  I really lucked out and was able to pick up an ARC of Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers. Yes, my seniors requested this one. :) They were in 3rd grade when the first book came out and were laughing when I mentioned that the second book would be published this summer. Needless to say, when I got back to school they swiped it from me and quickly read it).

I spent the next hour or so walking around, talking to publicists and picking up some ARCs.  While standing at the Abram’s booth, I ran into Pam of MotherReader fame! She was wonderful and gracious and we ended up spending a good portion of the afternoon together.  It was great getting to know her outside the blog (I highly recommend meeting bloggers!  It’s really great!) and we chatted about books, teens, writing, and the 48 Hour Book Challenge.  She let me know that Lisa Yee would be signing at the American Girl booth and I was happy to wait in line to meet her and of course, Peep!  (Peep is famous.  Really.  Just ask him. :) )

MotherReader and Lisa Yee

Me, Lisa Yee, and Peep!

Together we waited on a few signing lines and even made our way over to the autograph tables, which are complete chaos.  I completely lucked out when Scott Westerfeld’s ticketed line slowed down and the girl corralling the line let me jump on the back, without a ticket.  It was my biggest coup of the day and I knew I had students who would be falling over themselves to read Goliath.  Scott Westerfeld was really nice and autographed the copy directly to my class.

Sadly, it was time for me to leave MotherReader at that point and begin to make my way back to Penn Station.  I did one more quick loop around the convention center and really lucked out.  Standing at the Random House booth, completely alone, was Christopher Paolini!  One of my seniors had begged me for an ARC of Inheritance, but they were not available.  However, Paolini was kind enough to sign a poster for him and we had a short conversation.  It was interrupted when I heard someone practically hyperventilating behind me.  There was a tween boy there who was gasping and kept repeating “You’re here.  Oh my god, you’re here.  I had no idea you would be here.  Was it in the program?!  Oh my god, you are my hero!”  I stepped aside as this young boy met his hero.  Paolini was deep in conversation with the boy only moments later and I had to smile.  Sure, I had seen some people at BEA act crazy, but that one moment is what BEA is truly about for me- meeting authors that I love and networking with all of these people I have only met online.

I had a wonderful time at BEA this year.  I’m not sure I could handle attending the entire conference, but one day is perfect.  I get to meet people I admire, I network with my publishing contacts, and I bring home ARCs for my students.

My BEA ARCs

On Thursday, I took all the ARCs to school (with the exception of a few I claimed first) and laid them out on the back table.  My classes all walked through and made a list of the books they want to read, and I pulled names out of a hat at lunch.  Most of the books have a waiting list, so students had to promise to review them on goodreads in return for getting the opportunity to read them.  My first student has already reviewed her ARC!  I expect more reviews to be posted this weekend.  This is why I love BEA- ARCs build passion.  Students are making lists, sharing books, and talking about them because they have the privilege to read them before anyone else.  It’s fantastic!

#Bookaday Over Christmas Break

I am happy to report that I succeeded in my quest to read a #bookaday over winter break.  Expect reviews in the coming weeks (and months, for some of these ARCs!), but here is a list of  the books I read:
Here’s the Situation: A Guide to Creeping on Chicks, Avoiding Grenades, and Getting in Your GTL on the Jersey Shore by Mike Sorrentino and Chris Millis- Yes, seriously. Jersey Shore is my guilty pleasure and I got this book for Christmas.  It is hysterical!

Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking: Book Three by Patrick Ness- Fantastic! Fantastic! Fantastic!

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue- I actually made time to read an adult book, and it was well-worth it.

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant- I loved this take on the opera, Carmen.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver- You know I love a good dystopian, and this is the first in what promises to be a great series.

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan- This was an ARC I received from the publisher, and it did not disappoint. It takes a look at fate, coincidence, love, abuse, and the power of a single person on another’s life.

Father of Lies by Ann Turner- A historical fiction about the Salem Witch Trials.

The New World by Patrick Ness- A novella prequel to the Chaos Walking trilogy. Just as fantastic as the rest of the series!

Bumped by Megan McCafferty- I love Megan McCafferty. Her Jessica Darling series is on my list of all-time favorites. Bumped is her first official foray into YA, and it’s a dystopian! Absolutely wonderful!

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante- My first 2011 debut! A great middle grade read.

And I am currently in the middle of reading Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Expect to hear lots more about this one!

ARCs Float On

*Edited to add: Bloggers and teachers who are interested in being a part of the program, fill out the survey

ARCsFloatOn Matchmaker Survey

*****************************


Since starting at my new school, I have not been blogging as much.  I’ve been working on my curriculum, getting to know my students as readers, and grading a lot!  I have been trying to keep up with my reading, though, and I’ve been posting reviews here on the blog (with more to come).  My to-be-read pile of books continues to grow exponentially, adding titles from blogger reviews, student suggestions, and review books that I receive.

I get a lot of books for review.  At least twice each week I come home to find packages on the porch.  Right now, as a Cybils panelist, I am receiving review copies of the nominated  YA/middle grade nonfiction titles.  Some of the books I receive are finished copies and others are ARCs (advanced readers copies).  I read as many as I can, posting reviews here and on Goodreads. Publishers value the “buzz” that is generated by these early copies and my students love that they get a chance to read books before they are officially published.  I start the year by explaining what ARCs are and showing them some unfinished copies.  My sixth-graders and my high schoolers both understood that ARCs are not finished works and may differ from the final draft.  But ARCs work wonders with readers.  Even the most reluctant reader can be swayed when they realize they are first. They are holding a copy of the book before almost anyone else.

After I read, my ARCs and review copies are put in my classroom library.  Upcoming books are shelved separately, drawing in reluctant readers.  ARCs that have been published (and physically survived my classroom) are moved onto the general shelves  of my library.  Books that are not a good fit for my classroom are given to other teachers.  My sister teaches high school special ed and is just starting her classroom library.  I brought her boxes of high-interest but low-level books this summer.  I also give middle grade titles and elementary titles to other friends who teach those grade levels.  The teachers are always extremely grateful. Plus, my husband is happy because the books are out of our house!  (Honestly, it is only temporary because more books soon replace those that are gone).

Classroom libraries are a vital part of students’ lives.  According to Scholastic’s Classroom Libraries Work: Research & Results,

By providing access to a rich classroom library, teachers promote greater amounts of reading, increased reading frequency, and more diverse reading experiences among their students, thus helping them to attain greater levels of reading achievement.

Unfortunately, almost all teachers fund their classroom libraries on their own.  This means ordering from Scholastic, visiting warehouse sales, soliciting donations from students/parents, and looking longingly at those new titles in the bookstore but knowing it’s impossible to buy them all.  I am extremely lucky; as a reviewer, I have access to the newest titles.  But for most of my friends, this is not true.  The economy has hit schools and teachers hard.  Spending extra money on trade books for the classroom library is hard to justify when it means your own family might do without something else.  Schools are spending their money elsewhere, unable to fund classroom libraries.

While joining in the monthly Twitter chat for #titletalk, Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) and I started talking about this issue.  I brought up the fact that I know many bloggers who are inundated with titles and have nowhere to donate them.  ARCs can not be sold or cataloged by an actual library, so many are thrown out.  Most public libraries are unable to accept donations of review copies, or finished copies.  (I know mine can not, and I have tried, and tried!)

I suggested that we start a campaign to encourage book reviewers and bloggers to donate their review books and advanced reader copies to classrooms and charities in their communities. I know many of the reviewers already donate their books to local schools, libraries, and literacy charities.  However, I talked to many on Twitter who did not know what to do with their copies.

This is my plea- find a worthy charity or a local classroom teacher.  Give them your ARCs and review copies when you are done.  Tweens and teens NEED access to good books, new literature.  Reviewers are in a special position here and can really help out in these tough economic times.  If you receive free books from publishers (ARCs or review copies!), please consider donating your review books. By donating the books that you receive for free, you are promoting awareness of great books and authors, helping teachers and librarians, and encouraging more reading. Learn more about this initiative or connect to a classroom through the Twitter hashtag, #ARCsFloatOn.

If you are interested, and don’t know how to get matched with a local teacher, feel free to comment here or Tweet me.  I would be happy to do some matchmaking!

*Please remember, ARCs can not be cataloged by an actual library.  However, personal classroom libraries can accept ARCs!

Edited to add:

Want to be matched?  Fill out the survey!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,959 other followers