BookUp: Where Lifelong Readers Begin

  • “To give a young person the gift of reading is to give them the
    fulcrum with which they can move the universe.” ~ Junot Díaz

    About BookUp

    Studies show that students who read for pleasure outside of school test better, have higher GPAs, and are hired for more desirable careers later in life. But nearly half of 9-year-olds who read for pleasure stop by age 17. Since 2007, BookUp has been reversing that trend.

    We hire acclaimed, local authors to lead after-school reading groups designed to improve students' social, emotional, and literacy skills. Each middle schooler in the BookUp program is also taken on field trips to local libraries and bookstores, where they're provided $50 a semester to spend on books of their choosing. This is often our students’ first opportunity to build libraries for themselves and their families. Since its inception, BookUp has provided its students with over 25,000 books free of charge.

    BookUp is a national program serving over 300 students annually. In 2014, we doubled our reach by opening 10 new summer sites in New York City, thanks to a partnership with the Department of Youth and Community Development. We also completed a third-party evaluation through Metis Associates that showed students who complete just one year of BookUp are 89% more likely to visit a local public library on their own and 59% more likely to visit a bookstore. The study showed our students also became 66% more confident with public speaking and 44% more confident sharing their opinions. We are creating not just a new generation of readers, but a new generation of confident, engaged citizens.

    As of 2017, BookUp operates in New York City, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Huntsville, TX. Our goal is to have have BookUp sites in every state. With your help, BookUp will continue to grow and touch the lives of kids across the country, creating impassioned readers for years to come.

    Donate Now

  • NBF Partners with NYC DYCD for Summer Storytellers Reading and Writing Program

    Summer Storytellers is an intensive reading and writing program for middle school students run in partnership with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), in collaboration with BoomWriter, an online writing platform for young people. In Summer 2017, 200 students across 12 sites will spend their summers reading and writing. BoomWriter facilitates a writing project, and as part of the Foundation's larger BookUp program, teaching artists facilitate reading activities that help inspire students as writers, and encourage them to grow as readers. BookUp celebrates student choice and values book ownership; Storytellers participants are provided with up to five books of their own choosing to add to their home libraries. Students are able to connect with the larger literary community as they receive direct mentorship from their BookUp teaching artist, all published writers or literary professionals. Instead of falling into the "summer slump," Book Up: Summer Storytellers helps nurture young people's joy of reading and uses the summer months to build lifelong readers.

    BookUp LGBTQ Launches at The Hetrick-Martin Institute, in partnership with Lambda Literary

    t’ai freedom ford photoThe Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of our first BookUp site for LGBTQ youth at The Hetrick-Martin Institute, an after-school center that creates a safe and supportive environmentfor LGBTQ youth, many of whom are homeless or otherwise at risk.Taught by award-winning poet and Cave Canem fellow, t'ai freedom ford, Hetrick-Martin Institute Logo BookUp LGBTQ will run similarly to our current BookUp sites,but will focus specifically on giving the youth a richer sense of their historyand the tremendous contributions of LGBTQ authors throughout time.

    The youth will select books they want to read from their own list as well as a curated list of books hand-picked by LGBTQ authors, including NaomiJackson, Lambda Literary LogoGarth Greenwell and 5 under 35 honoree Megan Kruse. The field trips will be geared towards queer bookstores and historic sites throughout the five boroughs. BookUp LGBTQ is run in partnership with Lambda Literary, the longest running literary organization championing the works of LGBTQ writers.

    t’ai freedom ford, Poet and educator, interviewed about BookUp LGBTQ

    t'ai freedom ford author photo When it came time to select an instructor for BookUp’s inaugural LGBTQ program, t’ai freedom ford was a natural choice. A Cave Canem fellow, New York City public school teacher, and generous poet, her love of education and reading is palpable. BookUp LGBTQ was created so that young queer readers can be paired with writers and stories that reflect their lives. t’ai freedom ford took time to answer a few questions about how she became a teacher, the books that have influenced her, and why BookUp LGBTQ matters.
    Read t’ai's Q&A, where she discusses breaking stereotypes, the insightful nature of young readers, and viewing hip-hop as poetry.

    In Their Own Words

    Middle Schoolers on the Joys of Building Their Own Home Libraries
    Students participating in a BookUp after school program
    by Eisa Ulen Richardson, author of the novel Crystelle Mourning and an instructor for National Book Foundation’s BookUp program

    Reading Rainbow Logo I love encouraging young people to read. As a writer, I recognize that one of primary tasks (beyond actually writing) is growing readership. As a teacher, I know that the middle school years are the grade levels when kids are most likely to lose interest in reading. As a mom, I cherish the countless snuggles my now- 1st grader and I have shared over books, and I never want the warm emotional power of reading to leave us.

    So, when I got a call from The National Book Foundation asking me to lead a reading workshop for middle school children, I jumped at the opportunity. The call came from Leslie Shipman, the Assistant Director at NBF, an award-winning poet, and an advocate who is passionate about young people and reading. She started BookUpNYC, an after-school book club for middle schoolers supported by NBF. BookUp has now grown from locations throughout New York City to satellite programs in Texas and Detroit Michigan, and starting this year, BookUpLGBTQ for high school students at the Hetrick-Martin Institute.

    Read the full article at

    BookUp LGBTQ Launches at The Hetrick-Martin Institute, in partnership with Lambda Literary

    t’ai freedom ford photoThe Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of our first BookUp site for LGBTQ youth at The Hetrick-Martin Institute, an after-school center that creates a safe and supportive environmentfor LGBTQ youth, many of whom are homeless or otherwise at risk.Taught by award-winning poet and Cave Canem fellow, t'ai freedom ford, Hetrick-Martin Institute Logo BookUp LGBTQ will run similarly to our current BookUp sites,but will focus specifically on giving the youth a richer sense of their historyand the tremendous contributions of LGBTQ authors throughout time.

    The youth will select books they want to read from their own list as well as a curated list of books hand-picked by LGBTQ authors, including NaomiJackson, Lambda Literary LogoGarth Greenwell and 5 under 35 honoree Megan Kruse. The field trips will be geared towards queer bookstores and historic sites throughout the five boroughs. BookUp LGBTQ is run in partnership with Lambda Literary, the longest running literary organization championing the works of LGBTQ writers.

    Interview with BookUp instructor Amanda Nowlin-O’Banion

    Amanda Nowlin-O'BanionStarted in 2011 in Huntsville, TX, BookUpTexas is one of our longest running BookUp sites, facilitated by writer and educator Amanda Nowlin-O’Banion. Amanda took the time to chat with BookUp about how the program has helped the community, the books her students loved, and the success they’ve had as readers.
    Read Amanda's Q&A, where she discusses finding hope in books, making reading interactive, and the importance of introducing students to diverse titles.

    BookUp Building Readers in Under-served Communities

    BookUp, the NBF's reading program for under-served youth, is changing lives and inspiring readers across the country. BookUp connects published authors with young readers, and, through field trips to local libraries and bookstores, helps those students learn to engage with and encounter literature. To date, BookUp has given its students over 25,000 books free of charge. Watch the video to discover what makes BookUp succeed and why you should support the program.

    NBF Expands BookUp to Detroit, MI in partnership with locally-based InsideOut Literary Arts Project (iO)

    Garvey Academy.The NBF has expanded BookUp, it’s afterschool reading program, to Detroit, MI in partnership with locally-based InsideOut Literary Arts Project (iO). For eight years, BookUp has worked in underserved communities throughout New York City to put books into the hands of middle school students and inspire them to become lifelong readers. For the past twenty years, InsideOut has helped strengthen the voices of more than 50,000 of Detroit’s youth through writing workshops and mentorships. Detroit is the NBF’s first partner city, and the BookUp iO Detroit site represents the first step in an ongoing expansion effort.
    “BookUp has achieved tremendous results in New York, and we see Detroit as a city that welcomes new initiatives to address literacy and educational equality,” said Leslie Shipman, Assistant Director of the NBF and founder of the BookUp program. “We see InsideOut Literary Arts Project not just as an expert in how BookUp can accomplish its goals in Detroit, but also as an important ally in our mission to promote reading among young people.”
    More about Book iO Detroit.

    Interview with BookUp instructor Tim Manley

    Tim ManleyTim Manley is a BookUp instructor, longtime Moth storyteller, and multigenre artist. His first book, Alice in Tumblr-Land, was published by Penguin in 2013. His first one-person show, Feelings, is running at FringeNYC through August 29.
    Read Tim's Q&A, where he discusses the benefits of BookUp, helping students discover why they should read, and what it's like to put on a one-man show.

    Interview with BookUp instructor Sofia Quintero

    Sofia Quintero Longtime BookUp instructor Sofia Quintero published her second young adult novel, Show and Prove, last month. Show and Prove follows two friends, Smiles and Nike, as they try to keep their friendship together while attending separate schools.
    In a video interview and Q&A, Quintero shares her thoughts on growing up in the 80s, not writing in proper English, and the influence that young adult novelists had on her authentic writing voice.

    Interview with BookUp instructor Sofia Quintero

    Daniel Jose OlderBookUp faculty Daniel José Older recently published the young adult novel, Shadowshaper, to widespread critical acclaim. Shadowshaper follows Sierra Santiago, a young Puerto Rican muralist in Brooklyn whose paintings come to life.
    In a Q&A interview, Older shares his thoughts on how the YA book industry has changed, the role of diversity in children’s literature, and the importance of listening in the creative process.

    Interview with BookUp instructor Mitchell Jackson

    Mitchell Jackson This fall, we welcomed acclaimed author Mitchell Jackson into our faculty for BookUp, the National Book Foundation’s after school program in which middle-school students build their social, emotional, and literacy skills by chosing the books they want to read.  
    In a Q&A with Mitchell, he discusses his first semester with BookUp, his acclaimed novel, The Residue Years, and who he looks to for inspiration.  

    BookUp featured in Kidsreads!

    kids article, 2015

    BookUpNYC Celebrates Another Successful Year

    BookUpNYC held it's annual year end picnic at the Nelson Rockefeller State Park in Battery Park City, lower Manhattan.  

    BookUp students played ball, ate pizza, and read their pieces from the 2015 BookUp Anthology.  They were joined by author and BookUp instructor Daniel José Older, who read a chapter form his forthcoming YA novel, Shadowshaper. Daniel shared talked about how he became a writer, and re-imagining Harry Potter as a Puerto Rican kid from Brooklyn."

    Explore our infographic about the importance of middle grade reading

    More about BookUp

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    BookUp Pilot Summer Program Passed With Flying Colors

    BookUp sparked a newer and a greater love for reading among this group. The pilot project was such a positive experience, students who were not part of the program noticed and wanted to join.
    – Chinese American Planning Council

    BookUp is a fabulous program and all students should have the opportunity to participate in such a rich experience.
    – YMCA of Greater NY/Dodge

    Elisha Miranda's BookUp students in Washington Heights made a film about themselves, the BookUp program, and the books they love.

    NBF Launches New Summer Reading Program

    Image for New York City's Department of Youth and Community DevelopmentThanks to an important partnership with New York City's Department of Youth and Community Development, BookUp was able to launch its first summer program.

    Through support from DYCD, BookUp launched 10 new sites throughout the city, helping hundreds of students develop an appreciation for reading where it really counts: outside the classroom. We were also able to bring in new instructors, including Mitchell S. Jackson, Zetta Elliott, Daniel Jose Older, and Charlie Vazquez.

    Read more about our work this summer at Publisher's Weekly

    Hangout with Author Gene Luen Yang

    Gene Luen Yang, who is a two-time National Book Award Finalist, in 2006 for American Born Chinese and 2013 for Boxers & Saints, joined Google’s Connected Classroom to speak with Time for Kids and our summer BookUp students.

    Hangout with NBA Winner Will Alexander

    Will Alexander, whose Goblin Secrets won a 2012 National Book Award, joined Google’s Connected Classroom to speak with Time for Kids and our summer BookUp students.


    Image: Kiana reading her poem at BookUp Event
    Kiana reads one of her poems at BookUp’s end-of-year picnic in NYC’s Battery Park.

    Kiana participated in BookUp, our after-school reading program, for all three years of middle school at Brooklyn’s I.S. 318. After graduating this June, Kiana will attend high school in the fall and plans to return to her BookUp classroom as an intern.

    Q: You've been in BookUp for three years - why did you return year after year?

    A: BookUp was a place that I couldn't turn away from, it is an awesome program. I get free books I get to keep, and go on really cool trips. The program overall encourages me to read even more than I used to. I always loved reading and I am always reading whenever I get the chance but while in BookUp, I realized I’ve been walking around constantly to class with a new book in my hand and it is a good feeling.

    Q: What did you learn as a reader that you didn't know before you attended BookUp?

    A: What I’ve learned in BookUp about myself as a reader is that I have learned to appreciate other genres besides what I used to read which was mystery all the time.

    Q: How do you think BookUp has prepared you to become a lifelong reader & learner?

    A: I already knew I would be a lifelong reader and learner before attending BookUp because I was so fond of it, but if BookUp were a reason of how to prepare me, it would be encouraging my reading and writing skills.

    Q: Do you have any books you’d like to recommend to other readers your age?

    A: Yes I certainly do, I would like to recommend It’s kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini because, the character of the book faces issues that makes him contemplate suicide but sought help and it saved his life. I think the book holds a strong message for people my age and it is a good book overall and I feel anyone can enjoy it.

    The After-School Corporation (TASC) praises BookUp’s transformative impact on middle-school readers.

    “IMAGE: BookUp participant Jeremiah Daly and 
                poet Simba McCray
    Jeremiah Daly, a sixth grader in BookUpNYC’s weekly after-school reading program pictured with Simba McCray, poet and co-director of the Hudde BookUp program. (Photo credit: Beverly Cheuvront)

    This post first appeared on The ExpandED Exchange, the blog of ExpandED Schools by TASC.

    Where Books Are Still Fashionable

    By Susan Brenna
    Friday, March 7, 2014
    Susan Brenna is TASC's Chief Communications Officer

    Sixth grader Jeremiah Daly, one of 12 siblings, will get on a bus at his Flatbush middle school this Saturday and ride into Manhattan. First he'll tour Bobst Library at New York University with a group of his classmates. Then he'll be treated to lunch (barbecue!) at Hill Country Chicken. Then, with $25 from the National Book Foundation, Jeremiah will go shopping at Books of Wonder.

    This upcoming plunge into bookishness is thanks to a project the foundation has undertaken "to keep kids interested in books at a time when books are not very fashionable," as "BookUp" author and teacher John Murillo says.

    Jeremiah attends a Middle School ExTRA school, Andries Hudde, where the school staff joins with the community organization CAMBA to offer an extra 2.5 hours of literacy-focused learning and enrichment every day. Once a week during those hours, John Murillo (a poet and finalist for a PEN Open Book Award) visits Hudde. There he uses the same techniques to discuss books, literary genres and writing with sixth graders as he does with his NYU students. Hudde's BookUp club is co-directed by a CAMBA staff member, Simba McCray, who also writes poetry and organizes community slams.

    Jeremiah, who inherited some civil rights history books from a grandfather who taught at Medgar Evers College, elected to join the club because "I have a craving for books," he said. "And I noticed that the people teaching it were really nice. They let you read and get your feelings out."

    Kyle Rowley, another book club member, was able to raise his English class grades to meet CAMBA's requirement for joining the basketball team. Kyle, who is 11, says that BookUp was not his first choice of an after-school club, "but now I'm glad I got in." He has some hand-me-down books at home, but the club's twice-a-semester book-buying expeditions "make me feel good because now I have my own collection of books. I don't have to read the ones my sister or my cousins chose."

    The National Book Foundation fully funds the BookUp club at Hudde and two other schools that are joining in this field trip. The foundation's goal, says Director of Programs Leslie Shipman, is to motivate middle school students to read for pleasure in hopes they'll develop habits for life.

    John Murillo describes the club as "a space where kids get to relax and they get to read. To their credit, they don't laugh at one another when someone makes a mistake. They teach one another. They help one another."

    Not long ago he introduced Kyle, Jeremiah and the other students to a 300-page, two-book set of graphic novels on China's Boxer Rebellion, Boxers & Saints. On a Monday, the students took turns reading from Chapter One. When he returned to Hudde the next Monday, expecting to start on Chapter Two, Mr. Murillo found that all his young students had finished both books. He cast his lesson aside and "we had a great discussion about China, history and religion."

    While this is the first year TASC and the New York City Department of Education are extending the school day at Hudde through MS ExTRA, it's the sixth year that CAMBA has partnered with the foundation to bring BookUp to kids in its programs.

    CAMBA's Vice President for Education & Youth Development, Christie Hodgkins, says the clubs are especially transformative with introverts and students learning English as a second language. She's seen many middle schoolers lose interest in reading. But when club members get to read "with published authors who are from the communities where they live," and then get to visit book worlds beyond their neighborhoods, they use a different word to describe reading to her. The word is "awesome."IMAGE: LOGO for The After School Corporation

    - See more at:

    BookUpNYC 2014 Field Trip to Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

    On Saturday, February 1, BookUp students from CAMBA at Andreis Hudde Jr. High in Brooklyn, I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, and University Settlement’s STRIDE Program in Manhattan visited the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem. Students enjoyed the Schomburg’s exhibitions on the history of Motown and “Funky Turns 40,” a celebration of positive black cartoon characters since the 1970s. The group paid tribute to Langston Hughes, whose birthday is February 1st, by reading a Hughes poem aloud around the cosmogram where the poet’s ashes are buried inside the Schomburg Center. The BookUp group then had lunch at Spoonbread, also in Harlem, and finished up the afternoon shopping for books at Barnes & Noble on the Upper East Side.

    BookUp Kicks off 2013-2014 Season with NYPL Field Trip

    Presenting the 2013 Best of BookUp Selections

    We’re excited to share our second annual Best of BookUp Selections, a summer reading list straight from the middle-school students in BookUp. We asked the students at our sites in New York City and Texas to vote on their favorite books read in BookUp during the 2012-2013 school year.

    > Click here to see the results.

    BookUpNYC Students Celebrate a Great Year at La Casa Azul Bookstore

    On May 11, BookUp students and instructors from all five New York City sites gathered at La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem for the second annual BookUpNYC end-of-year party. Students read from their own work, printed in books made using the Espresso Book Machine; others read from some of their favorite books—The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñonez; instructors read their own and others’ work. Afterward, students purchased books, had a pizza lunch, and enjoyed the beautiful space and courtyard of La Casa Azul.


    For the past two years, students at our BookUpNYC sites have created books of their own writing using the Espresso Book Machine. Students read from these books at the recent end-of-year party at La Casa Azul Bookstore (see photos above). The slideshow below includes the covers of the books, designed by the students and their instructors.


    Rebecca Stead

    BookUp Students from CAMBA at M.S. 25 in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, led by instructor Willie Perdomo, read When You Reach Me and Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead earlier this year. They sent her some questions about Liar & Spy, which she was kind enough to answer.

    > Click here to read interview.



    Author Teresa Ann Willis visited a few of our BookUpNYC sites this year. All students received a copy of Willis’ book, Like a Tree Without Roots, and the students at the University Settlement site, led by author/instructor Eisa Ulen, followed up the visit by writing letters to Willis. The slideshow contains the students’ letters to Willis, as well as her response to the group.

    Images from BookUp Field Trips on Dec. 1 and December 8

    This December, all of our BookUp sites visited the "Lunch Hour" exhibit at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library. After that, we had lunch at Hill Country Chicken and went book shopping at Books of Wonder.

    BookUpNYC Students Interview Author Martha Southgate

    Martha Southgate, by  by Tom RaweBookUp students in University Settlement’s STRIDE Program on the Lower East Side, led by author/instructor Eisa Ulen, read Martha Southgate’s The Fall of Rome this spring. Southgate was generous to answer some of the students’ many questions via email.

    > Click here to read interview.

    BookUpNYC students and instructors enjoyed the first annual end-of-year picnic

    BookUpNYC students and instructors enjoyed their first annual end-of-year picnic and read-in on Saturday, June 2 in Battery Park City. Author Jacqueline Woodson joined the students after lunch for a conversation and reading, answering questions about her writing process and books, and reciting work from memory, including passages from Locomotion. BookUp students from CAMBA in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn read a poem they had composed as a group with their instructor, Willie Perdomo.

    Julie Anne PetersBookUpNYC Students Interview NBA Finalist Julie Anne Peters

    BookUp students in Lissette Norman’s group at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn read Julie Anne Peters’ By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead earlier this year. They sent a few questions to Peters, a 2004 National Book Award Finalist for Luna, which she was happy to answer via email.

    > Click here to read the interview.

    Precious, a BookUp Student from CAMBA Kids, on what she loves about BookUp

    Precious is an 8th grader from the CAMBA Kids program in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, who has participated in BookUp for two years. She’s going to high school next year, but she’ll take all of the good stuff she learned in BookUp with her.

    Sarah and Orchid, BookUp Students from I.S. 318, on what they love about BookUp

    Sarah and Orchid are 8th graders from the I.S. 318 program in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sarah has been in BookUp for three years and Orchid for two years. They’re going to high school next year and took a couple minutes to look back on their experiences in BookUp during a field trip at the Brooklyn Public Library.

    Photos from the April BookUpNYC Field Trip at the brooklyn public library

    BookUp Students Interview YA Author Lisa Schroeder

    Lisa SchroederStudents from our BookUpNYC site at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn recently read I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder. BookUp instructor Lissette Norman said her students loved the book so much that they chose to keep reading it during two BookUp sessions instead of doing an activity. The students sent us a few questions to pass on to Schroeder, who was generous enough to answer via email.

    > To read interview, click here.

    BookUp Students Write to NBA Finalist Gary D. Schmidt

    The BookUp students at our University Settlement/STRIDE Program site in New York City recently wrote letters to 2011 National Book Award Finalist in Young People’s Literature Gary D. Schmidt about his nominated book, Okay for Now. To the students’ delight, Schmidt responded personally to each letter.

    photos from A field trip

    March 3, 2012: Kingsbridge Heights Community Center and SUHCCS Community School/Children’s Aid Society sites visit NYU’s Bobst Library, Hill Country Chicken, and Books of Wonder

    Sofia Quintero speaks with BookUpNYC participants

    Writer Sofia Quintero speaks with BookUpNYC participants about the process of getting a book published.

    A Day in the Life of a BookUpNYC Field Trip

    These photographs were taken during a BookUp NYC field trip on February 28th, 2009, when Brooklyn BookUpNYC students from the CAMBA Renaissance Program in Crown Heights and Intermediate School 318 in Williamsburg spent their Saturday touring the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and lunching at the world famous Smoke Joint in Fort Greene. The day ended with book shopping at Book Court in Cobble Hill. The Foundation is grateful to BPL, Smoke Joint and BookCourt for welcoming us!

    Earlier this spring, the Foundation spoke with students in Lissette Norman’s BookUpNYC class at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The students talked about their favorite books read in BookUp.

    Willie Perdomo's Recommended Books for Boys

    • Miracle Boys by Jacqueline Woodson

    • Begging for Change by Sharon G. Flake

    • Felita by Nicholasa Mohr

    • Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford

    • The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle

    • Confessions of a Blabbermouth by Mike and Louise Carey

    • Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat

    • The Whole Sky Full of Stars by René Saldaña, Jr.

    • The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci

    • Spellbound by Janet McDonald


    Shawntai Brown
    Shawntai Brown is a poet, playwright, and teaching artist with a Bachelor’s of Arts in creative writing from Western Michigan University. A Cass Tech-bred Detroit native, Shawntai’s comedic plays and narrative works have focused on faith, gender, race, sexuality and community. She is the author and co-director of eLLe Kalamazoo play project series, and former editor/organizer of the Voices theater project. Currently, she is enjoying her residency with Inside Out Literary Arts Project, but mostly she spends her days dreaming up interpersonal games, chopping vegetables and discouraging her rabbits from eating her sofa.

    Ama Codjoe
    Ama Codjoe was raised in Youngstown, Ohio with roots in Memphis and Accra. She has been awarded support from Saltonstall Foundation, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Cave Canem Foundation, and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. Her poems have appeared in Narrative, Four Way Review, Georgia Review, and elsewhere. Ama is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. She received the Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellowship from the Creative Writing department at New York University. Ama is a long-time educator of art, activism, and creative writing. She facilitates social justice trainings for art organizations, museums, and schools.

    Mitchell Jackon Mitchell S. Jackson is a Portland, Oregon native who lives in Brooklyn, New York.  He received an M.A. in writing from Portland State University and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from New York University.  He has been the recipient of fellowships from Urban Artist Initiative and The Center For Fiction and is the former winner of the Hurston Wright Foundation’s award for college writers. Jackson teaches writing at New York University. He published the e-book Oversoul: Stories and Essays in the summer of 2012.  His novel The Residue Years was released in the summer of 2013 and was praised by publications such as The New York Times, The Times of London, and O, the Oprah Magazine. The novel was a finalist for the Center For Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First novel prize, the PEN/ Hemingway award for first fiction, The Hurston / Wright Legacy Award for best fiction by a writer of African descent; it was long-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize for writing and the Chautauqua Prize. As well, it was named an “Honor Book” by the BCALA.
    Find him here: On Twitter: @MitchSJackson

    Brionne Janae is a California native, poet, and teaching artist living in Brooklyn. She received her MFA from Emerson College, and is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botoloph Emering Artist award, a Hedgebrook Alumni and proud Cave Canem Fellow. Her poetry and prose have been published in The American Poetry Review, Bitch Magazine, The Cincinnati Review, jubilat, Sixth Finch , Plume, Bayou Magazine, The Nashville Review, and Waxwing, among others. Brionne’s first full-length collection of poetry, After Jubilee, was selected for publication by Dorianne Laux and will be published by Boaat Press this fall.

    Leah Lakins is the founder and chief creative officer of Fresh Eyes Editorial Services. As an experienced editor and writer, she specializes in creating books and other non-fiction publications. She is a proud native of Baltimore, Maryland and an even prouder alumna of two of its finest institutions, Western Sr. High School and Morgan State University. She also holds a master’s degree in Publishing from The George Washington University. Now residing in Brooklyn, New York, she is passionate about mentoring the next generation of content creators and empowering others to share their stories.

    Janice Lee
    Janice Lee is the author of KEROTAKIS (Dog Horn Press, 2010), Daughter  (Jaded Ibis, 2011), DamnationReconsolidation, and most recently,  The Sky Isn’t Blue. She is Editor of the #RECURRENT Series for Civil Coping Mechanisms, Founder & Executive Editor of Entropy, Assistant Editor at Fanzine, and CEO/Founder of POTG Design. She holds a BA in Literature/Writing from UCSD and an MFA in Creative Writing from CalArts and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is currently at work on a new novel about the apocalypse and interspecies communication called Imagine a Death. She can be found online at and Twitter: @diddioz.

    Siobhán McGowan is the author of several books for young readers, including The Ultra Violets series, published under the pen name Sophie Bell by Penguin Random House. Her feature stories and celebrity profiles have appeared in Teen Vogue and Nylon magazines, and she has also written numerous works of nonfiction for such publishers as Scholastic, HarperCollins, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. A passionate advocate of reading, she has conducted workshops at the New York Public Library's Imagination Academy, the Children's Museum of Manhattan's inaugural ComicCon, and several city schools. She began working with the BookUp Summer Storytellers program in 2016.

    Lissette Norman Lissette Norman is the author of the children’s book, My Feet are Laughing (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006). Her work appears in anthologies: Moving Beyond Boundaries, Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam, and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art. She has also been published in Mosaic Literary Magazine, African Voices, Dialogue, Long Shot and Drum Voices Revue. Lissette won the Lee & Low Books’ “2003 New Voices Honor Award, the “2007 Original Work” grant from the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island, the “2007 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People” (Special Recognition) from The Poetry Center (PCCC), the “Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature” (Commended Title), and the Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year. Lissette received her B.A. in English at SUNY-Binghamton and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

    Amanda Nowlin-Obanion
    Amanda Nowlin-Obanion's stories and essays have appeared in Callaloo, Gulf Coast, Vandal, WhiskeyPaper, The Dallas Morning News, and the anthology Literary Cash. In December 2012, the Liars’ League NYC published and featured her story, “Boxing Day,” which was performed by Broadway's Maggie Lacy. She is the recipient of a Barbara Deming award and the TEX Emerging Writer Award judged by Joyce Carol Oates. Amanda earned an MFA from New York University and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She lives in Huntsville, Texas near the state prison and teaches creative writing at Sam Houston State University. Amanda is currently completing her first novel.

    Amanda Panitch is a young adult author living in New York City. Her books, Damage Done and Never Missing, Never Found (Random House Books for Young Readers), have been called "disturbingly wonderful" (Entertainment Weekly on Damage Done), "a real page-turner" (New York Daily News on Damage Done), and "a tense, clever thriller" (Publisher's Weekly, starred review of Never Missing, Never Found). Both were named Best Books for Teens by the New York Public Library. She is currently at work on her third book.

    Sofía  Quintero Sofía Quintero is the author of several novels and short stories that cross genres. Born into a working-class Puerto Rican-Dominican family in the Bronx, the self-proclaimed “Ivy League homegirl” earned a BA in history-sociology from Columbia University in 1990 and her MPA from the university's School of International and Public Affairs in 1992. After years of working on a range of policy issues from multicultural education to HIV/AIDS, she decided to pursue career that married arts and activism. Under the pen name Black Artemis, she wrote the hip hop novels Explicit Content, Picture Me Rollin’ and Burn. Sofía is also the author of the novel Divas Don’t Yield and contributed novellas to the “chica lit” anthologies Friday Night Chicas and Names I Call My Sister. As an activist, she co-founded Chica Luna Productions (, a nonprofit organization that seeks to identify, develop and support women of color who wish to create socially conscious entertainment. She is also a founding creative partner of Sister Outsider Entertainment, a multimedia production company that produces quality entertainment for urban audiences. Sofía is the author of the young adult novel Efrain’s Secret published by Knopf in 2009.

    Alicia Anabel Santos Alicia Anabel Santos is an Afrolatina Lesbian Storyteller, Speaker, Performance Artist, Producer, Playwright, Teaching Artist and Activist. Her stories celebrate and honor women throughout Latin America. She was born in Brooklyn and is a proud Dominican Writer. Iyawó is the Founder of the New York City Latina Writers Group which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. For ten years she has created and nurtured safe spaces for emerging and established writers to nurture their creativity. She has been a guest speaker, traveling to more than thirty universities throughout the United States, lecturing on subjects which intersect identity, religion, sexuality, feminism and social justice. In 2011, she self-published her memoir, Finding Your Force: A Journey to Love and her one-woman show I WAS BORN was selected as part of the ONE Festival in New York. Anabel has been a guest on NPR's Tell Me More and her work has been seen in LATINA Magazine. Having worked for renowned magazines, such as Glamour, Domino and BusinessWeek, it was an article published in Urban Latino Magazine, "Two Cultures Marching to One Drum," that would change the direction of her life. In 2008 she joined Creador Pictures as Writer/Producer of its first documentary, AfroLatinos: An Untaught History. She attended New York University, has a daughter in graduate school and lives in the Bronx with her partner.

    Matthew L. Thompson is a poet from Cleveland, Ohio, and a MFA candidate in Poetry at The New School. He wants his writing to fight, cry, moan, grieve, listen, shout, and be a varied and full communication of his interior. You can find his work in The Seventh Wave , Juked Poetry, James Franco Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and is getting his life. Join him on his blog, Unlearning Monday, and Instagram and Twitter @mlew_33.

    Eisa Nefertari Ulen Eisa Nefertari Ulen is the author of Crystelle Mourning (Atria), a novel described by The Washington Post as “a call for healing in the African American community from generations of hurt and neglect.” She is the recipient of a Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center Fellowship for Young African American Fiction Writers, a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, and a National Association of Black Journalists Award. Her essays on African American culture have been widely anthologized, most recently in Who Do You Serve? Who Do You Protect? (Haymarket), which won the Social Justice/Advocacy Award for 2017 from the School Library Journal's In the Margins Book Committee. Eisa graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University. She has taught literature at Hunter College and The Pratt Institute. A founding member of Ringshout: A Place for Black Literature, she lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn.

    Born in the South Bronx, Ivan Velez has used cartooning to help create social change for over 40 years. ‘Tales of the Closet’ was one of the first publicly distributed interventions for LGBT youth. Starting his pro comics career at the multicultural MILESTONE, he wrote several mainstream comics series and helped install diversity of color, gender, and orientation. His work continued for Marvel and DC Comics and has been included in several award-winning comic anthologies, and is translated and shown in three continents. Ivan is also a teaching artist for New York libraries and museums, and is proud to be the creator of “The Ballad of Wham Kabam!”, a comic series funded by the 2015 Creative Capital Visual Arts grant.

  • BookUp, National Book Foundation

    BookUp is a national program serving over 300 students annually. We are creating not just a new generation of readers, but a new generation of confident, engaged citizens. Since its inception in 2007, BookUp has provided its students with over 25,000 books free of charge.