The National Book Foundations Program for Young Readers Expands to Create First After School Reading Club for LGBTQ teens

On Friday, February 5th, the National Book Foundation will launch BookUp LGBTQ, a new BookUp site for LGBTQ teens at the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI). Taught by Cave Canem fellow and poet t’ai freedom ford, BookUp LGBTQ will provide books and activities tailored to young LGBTQ readers. BookUp LGBTQ’s students will choose from a booklist curated by today’s most influential LGBTQ authors, including Naomi Jackson, Garth Greenwell and 5 under 35 honoree Megan Kruse, and go on field trips to the New York Public Library’s Gay and Lesbian Collections, queer bookstores, and other historic and literary sites throughout the five boroughs.

Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI) was founded on the belief that all young people—regardless of sexual orientation or identity—deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential. Founded in NYC in 1979, HMI provides comprehensive counseling and case management for nearly 2,000 LGBTQ youth and their families. By partnering with HMI, BookUp LGBTQ brings BookUp’s engaging programming to a new constituency that will benefit from seeing their own stories and history reflected in LGBTQ books and more. “I am very excited about the partnership between HMI and the National Book Foundation,” says Juan Williams, HMI’s Director of Academic Enrichment. “I believe that this opportunity will empower our readers and budding writers to build on their strengths and flourish in their communities.” BookUp LGBTQ will be run in partnership with Lambda Literary, the oldest literary organization championing the works of LGBTQ writers and an honorable mention for the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize last year.

Created in 2007, BookUp has programs in New York, Texas, and Detroit, and has provided nearly 30,000 books free of charge to students to foster a lifelong love of reading. “Books give us our humanity and tell us we are not alone,” says the Foundation’s Program Manager Amy Gall. “BookUp LGBTQ creates a space where LGBTQ youth can see themselves as part of a dynamic community with a rich past and limitless future. We want to empower them to become the new generation of world changing readers and writers.”

For more information, the BookUp program video can be viewed here.

About BookUp, sponsored by the National Book Foundation

BookUp is a national program serving over 420 students annually. In 2015, BookUp doubled its reach by opening 13 new summer sites in New York City, thanks to a partnership with the Department of Youth and Community Development. BookUp 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.  Students also became 66% more confident with public speaking and 44% more confident sharing their opinions. BookUp is creating not just a new generation of readers, but a new generation of confident, engaged citizens. BookUp instructors include Sofia Quintero, Mitchell S. Jackson, Amanda Nowlin-O’Banion and Daniel José Older. Former BookUp instructors include Angie Cruz, Willie Perdomo, a National Book Critics Circle Award (Poetry) Finalist, Emily Raboteau, among others.

BookUp is supported by generous grants from the Theodore H. Barth Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

About The Hetrick-Martin Institute

Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI) was founded on the belief that all young people—regardless of sexual orientation or identity—deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential. Founded in New York City in 1979, HMI provides comprehensive counseling and case management for nearly 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their families from over 350 surrounding zip codes. In FY15 we had street interactions with over ten thousand homeless youth. HMI’s mission of Empowerment, Education and Advocacy fosters healthy youth development via direct services and referrals as well as innovative social service and academic enrichment programs that other organizations around the country now use as models. HMI is a registered 501(c)(3) supported by government, private sector and individual supporters.

About Lambda Literary

Founded in 1989, Lambda Literary gives voice to the LGBTQ community in powerful and essential ways. Marginalized and disenfranchised communities need to engage with art that reflects who they are, and Lambda provides important resources to strengthen LGBTQ literature. By ensuring that LGBTQ books are available to its community and recognized by popular media, Lambda Literary is affirming LGBTQ lives and preserving their experience. Lambda Literary “celebrates, nurtures, and promotes” both LGBTQ writers and readers through LGBTQ in-school programming; a writers retreat; and the Lambda Literary Review, a free online journal dedicated to promoting LGBTQ writers and literature. Additionally, the Lammys, Lambda’s awards for literature, have honored writers including Paul Monette, Adrienne Rich, and Michael Cunningham.

About tai freedom ford

t’ai freedom ford is a New York City high school English teacher, Cave Canem Fellow and Pushcart Prize nominee. She received her MFA in Fiction from Brooklyn College. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Ivy, The Brooklyn Review, Bronx Biannual and Kweli.  Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Sinister Wisdom, No, Dear, The African American Review, Vinyl, Muzzle, Poetry and others. Her work has also been featured in several anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. In 2012 and 2013, she completed two multi-city tours as a part of a queer women of color literary salon, The Revival. In 2014, she was the winner of The Feminist Wire’s inaugural poetry contest judged by Evie Shockley and is a 2015 Center for Fiction Fellow. She is the winner of the 2015 To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation (AROHO). Her first poetry collection, “how to get over,” is forthcoming from Red Hen Press.

The National Book Foundation’s mission is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America. In addition to the National Book Awards, for which it is best known, the Foundation’s programs include 5 Under 35, a celebration of emerging fiction writers selected by former National Book Award Finalists and Winners; the National Book Awards Teen Press Conference, an opportunity for New York City students to interview the current National Book Award Finalists in Young People’s Literature; NBA on Campus, a partnership that brings current National Book Award authors to universities and colleges; the Innovations in Reading Prize, awarded to individuals and institutions that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading; and BookUp, a writer-led, after-school reading club for middle-school students.

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