Project LIT Mailbag — Book Lists, Tips, and Reminders

Happy Friday, everyone! Thanks to the School Library Journal for spotlighting our Project LIT founders as they graduate this weekend. What an incredible chapter it’s been. (But, more on that later!)

In this post, I wanted to share a few tips and comments for our Project LIT educators as we wrap up another school year.

1. First, how cool is this?! Shout out to Project LIT Youngstown for creating this incredible map of our community, which now includes more than 850 chapters across 48 states. If/when you’re ready, you can join our movement here.

LIT Map

2. Next, our book lists! Thanks to everyone – students, educators, and authors – who helped with our 2019-20 reveal! 20 days, 40 beautiful books. See below for a few helpful graphics.

Our complete 19-20 list

ALL 2019-20

ALL of our Project LIT YA selections

ALL YA graphic

ALL of our MG selections

ALL MG

ALL of our Project LIT titles

ALL Project LIT Books 17-203. I love the Project LIT titles. Now what?!

As a Project LIT leader, think about what you want your chapter to look like next year (and the years to come). All of us have different students, roles, goals, schedules, and challenges, so it’s important that you develop your own game plan. To begin that process, check out this graphic.

What to do with Project LIT book list

What are your short-term and long-term goals as an educator, as a Project LIT chapter leader?

What do you want your chapter to look like? How do you want to improve your chapter next year? What support/resources do you need?

4. Alright, so what can I do this summer?

  • Read, read, read!
  • Connect with fellow chapter leaders online and in person
  • Find ways to add the Project LIT titles to your classroom/school
  • Meet with folks in your school and/or community and share your vision for your chapter
  • Dream big. Plan. Push your thinking.
  • Develop a fundraising plan, which leads to…

5. OK, seriously. I’m already struggling on this teacher’s salary. How do I get the books without going broke?!

The real answer: Shoot, it’s not easy. Not even for me and my students, who started Project LIT Community. We’re still hustling and scrambling, year after year, to get enough books. There’s still ZERO dollars in our school or district budget for Project LIT titles. ZERO. Even after we’ve proven, day after day, book after book, student after student, that this approach (and not scripted, prepackaged curriculum purchased by the district) works to build passionate, proficient readers.

With that said, here are a few ideas.

A. Work with your librarian to make sure all Project LIT titles are available in the library. And see if there’s room in the library budget to order additional copies. (Work in a school without a library/full-time librarian? Let us know! We’ve love to support any advocacy ideas you may have.)

B. Talk to your principal/school leadership team! There should be room in the budget for books, especially if you can share/sell your vision for your classroom and Project LIT chapter. Talk with your leadership team about their goals for the school, and how Project LIT can help you achieve them. (Hint: It will!) Have your “ask” ready.

C. Reach out to district leaders. Again, have your “ask” ready. What do you need, and why? What’s your vision? How does your plan align to district goals/priorities? Can they give you permission to “pilot” this next year? There could be some district funds to pilot Project LIT in your classroom/school – it doesn’t hurt to ask! Even if they can’t purchase books, they can give you permission to do this work, so that you don’t feel like you’re breaking the rules to provide students with positive literacy experiences! In addition, consider it a “win” if you can share the book list and build relationships!

D. Crowdsource, if necessary. In the beginning, I used Donors Choose regularly. (That is, before our district banned it. But, hey, it’s all about the kids, right?) Maybe you want to start with a class set of one book, or maybe you want 4-5 copies of multiple titles, or maybe you want one copy of every book. Do whatever you think is best for you and your students). Again, be passionate and persistent. Keep sharing your Amazon Wishlist, include the link in your email signature, reach out to friends and family, post often on Twitter.

E. Follow the money. Get involved in the school budget process. Ask where the money is going, and why. Ask if there are funds available for books. And if the answer is no, ask why.

F. Stay local! The real change happens at the local level, so seek out community partnerships (non-profits, businesses, organizations, etc.) and see if they can support your chapter. Be on the lookout for grant opportunities, as well!

how to support project lit flyer

G. Recruit and collaborate with fellow chapter leaders in your area! For example, if there are four chapters in your district, each could commit to purchasing a class set (or more) of one title. Then, you could swap books (and strategies/resources/ideas) at the end of each quarter. And, over time, as you and your students share your growth as readers, writers, and leaders, hopefully the adults in power step up and cover those costs for you. Better yet, hopefully they encourage you to share your approach with even more educators.

6. Finally, a few truths to ponder.

  • Students deserve access to great books.
  • Students deserve time to read, discuss, and celebrate these books during the school day (as well as at home).
  • If we increase book access + improve reading attitudes, we will see better reading outcomes.
  • The burden of increasing book access should not fall solely on educators.
  • Educators should not feel like they’re breaking the rules to provide students with positive literacy experiences.
  • Educators should not be fundraisers. There’s enough on our plates already.
  • Educators should not have to reach into their own pockets for books. We’re already underpaid.
  • Students should not be denied opportunities because adults, almost always privileged, are uncomfortable.
  • One of the best things (the best thing?) a school or district can do is buy books that their students are excited to read.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Don’t hesitate to reach out (jarred.amato@gmail.com) if you’re interested in bringing Project LIT to your school and community.