If there are any teachers of students K through 5th grade out there listening: About a year ago, we started something called The Young Editors Project. The idea is that we give students a peek into the editorial process by making them actual editors. This is true and fun and it works.

When I was growing up, my teachers encouraged me to be an editor, and to consider myself seriously as an author and editor — even at age 8. That was Mrs. Wright, who required us all to write a book, which we did, bound in yarn and with cardboard covers. I have that book today!

In fifth grade, my beloved teacher Ms. Dunn assigned us the task of writing and illustrating a story that could be read to peers and younger children, too. When I wrote that book, called Gleeble, Ms. Dunn nominated me to go to a convention of young writers in downstate Illinois. The guest speaker was the inimitable poet laureate, Gwendolyn Brooks. She spoke that day in a vast auditorium full of young writers, some as young as 10, and I for one was forever changed. My teacher, and Ms. Brooks, took us seriously, and held us to the highest standards.

That experience helped inspire 826 Valencia and 826 National. (By the way, check out #agoodtimetowrite, 826 National’s wonderful program full of prompts and plans and platforms for young voices.)

Now for the idea at hand: A good writer should be a good editor, and I love inviting young people into the publishing process — making it less mysterious, more democratic, and more inclusive. So that’s what the Young Editors Project is about — letting young people participate a bit in the making of a book.

So teachers. Here are the steps:

  • You write to us via Kitania Folk at kitania@thehawkinsproject.org. Tell us what grade you teach.
  • We send you a manuscript of a book written for your age group but not yet published. Sometimes these are just manuscripts. Sometimes there is some art, sometimes the art is almost finished. Some of the authors who are part of YEP include Mac Barnett, Shawn Harris, Jory John, Laura Park, Bethanie Murguia, Jessixa Bagley, and Emmy Kastner.
  • Your students are asked to comment on the book-in-progress in any way they see fit. Maybe we insert typos on purpose. Maybe we don’t. Maybe your students want more, maybe they want less. Maybe they just want to say what the book meant to them.
  • Then… Get this: your students’ names are featured in the actual printed book. This has happened and will continue to happen. It is pretty great. Publishers have let us do this in my books, in Shawn’s books, in Mac’s books. It will keep growing, too. My hope is that dozens or even hundreds of books have, in their acknowledgments, the names of kids who helped in the editorial process.

So let’s not overthink it. Write to Kitania today and this will be good.

Yrs,
Dave