“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Carl Buechner
In the more than eight years that I have been teaching, nothing has been more satisfying than seeing the look on children’s faces when they pick up a copy of their own book. As an author myself, I know that feeling—it’s amazing. You see, for the past five years I have been building the nonprofit student press that I founded in 2004. Learning for a Cause, as it is called, has made nearly two thousand students authors, and has published more than a dozen anthologies. This week the press comes to a turning point. I am stepping down as the publisher and handing the press over to the Quebec-based educational non-profit Youth Fusion (youthfusionquebec.org). Youth Fusion works to counter high school drop out rates in the province and will make the Learning for a Cause publishing program a central project in its repertoire of high school projects. I am sad and I am happy. One thing is for sure—publishing kids and their work has made the last five years of my teaching practice a complete pleasure. More teachers should be getting their kids’ work out to the world. Here is how you can do just that!
There are many websites that can help you publish from the classroom. Many want money and a few do not. Of those few that don’t, there are three that rise to the top as tested and true. Although I am not officially endorsing any of these sites, trust me that in publishing more than a dozen titles I have come to know which ones are the best overall. All of these sites will allow you to publish a real book, get it into distribution and pay only when you order actual copies of the title. In other words, no set up fees!
If you plan to publish a novel or anthology (primarily text-based) then you will want to head over to Lulu. Lulu will give you many options. Their online easy-touse interface will walk you through uploading a PDF of your book interior, designing your cover and assigning your ISBN number. They will even provide you with options to place your book on Amazon.com and more. Lulu is a great place to find books too! I have more than a hundred Lulu published books in my classroom and some of them are favourites with students year after year. Lulu.com.
Looking to publish a children’s book or a full-colour photo book? If this is the case you need to visit blurb. At blurb you can download a free version of their own software for either MAC or PC and begin dragging and dropping photos into your book layout. Book design could not be made more simple! Again, pay only for the copies you order! No set up fees or fees to sell your book on their site. Blurb books are stunning in quality and are simply the best way to self-publish photographs and illustrations. Blurb.com
Finally, if a magazine is on the brain then go to MagCloud and upload a PDF, design a cover and get printing! At just twenty cents a page, this site cannot be beat for full-colour, high-gloss magazine production. This is a great site to find magazines too. Self-published content is often unique, less biased and more specialized. Look around and see what the self-published world has to offer. You can begin at MagCloud.com.
What began as simply a publishing project in my classroom five years ago became an internationally award-winning student press. My students have won book awards, entrepreneurial awards and have had their work shelved in more than one hundred libraries around the globe including Library of Canada and the Library of Congress. We have worked with Martin Sheen, Candy Spelling and David Suzuki to name but three. We have traveled to Atlanta, San Francisco, St. Louis, Toronto, New York, Rome, London and Paris as part of this fascinating project. You don’t have to take it so far or you can take it further. Teaching is what you make of it. One thing is for sure though, in English language arts it all starts with a pencil, a piece of paper and a touch of imagination. What are you waiting for? Make your students feel like the brilliant writers they are. They will never forget the fact that you believed in them, that you took their work and put it into print. Go ahead, write and be published!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Ernest Sweet
Michael Ernest Sweet is a writer, educator and social activist. He founded the Learning for a Cause Initiative in 2004 and was a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009. Michael divides his time between Montreal and New York City. www.LearningforaCause.org
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s November 2010 issue.