National Book Foundation's BookUpNYC

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 
     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

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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


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.