Working as a sales representative for an educational publisher has opened up an entirely new world of learning for me. I have been able to peer into the publishing process, the types of books written and the latest trends across the nation, much like a medical student is able to view the fine art of surgery from an amphitheater’s glass viewing area.
What I have learned is this: many can write for the educational market, and it is a growing market. You need to find the right niche for you, and do some studying. The following are the paths that can be taken:
+ write for an educational publisher
+ write a fiction paperback for grades K-12
+ write teacher resource materials
+ write historical fiction and nonfiction + write self published programs for schools
Writing for an educational publisher is the most difficult, which is why I started here – it gets easier. Authors for educational publishers have educational backgrounds as teachers and lecturers. However, if you have studied what the needs are, and know the national standards for curriculum, you have a chance if you are able to place them in the right format.
The format today is for guided reading, and more schools are using very simple nonfiction books in grades PreK-3 to help kids learn the science and social studies concepts at earlier ages, in addition to integrating subjects instead of teaching them separately. These simple format books give them information in small, bite size chunks.
To find out more about standards for curriculum, surf online for:
+ National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
+ National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
+ National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) – Yes, schools do use simple word books that teach math.
+ Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education by John Kendall and Robert Marzano
To find out more about reading practices used by teachers to give an insight on how books are written, surf online at www.reading.org.
Also take a look at books written by professionals such as:
+ Read It Again! Revisiting Shared Reading by Brenda Parkes
+ Guided Reading: A Good First Teaching for all Children by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell
Writing a fiction paperback for children in grades K-12 is a market that is also growing. Teachers are looking for good literature for “classroom libraries.” They are being told that, to teach reading effectively and to meet all of the varying needs of the students, they must have many materials in the classroom. Check out the Newbery Honor winners. School librarians post those titles and schools buy them. You can go to www.amazon.com and plug in “Newbery Honor” in the search, or ask at your local library.
Teachers also need books that are high interest books, but are written at a lower level for the struggling readers in their classrooms. For example, kids who are in grades 6-8, but reading at grade levels of 1-4, don’t want the “little kid” books. They want sci-fi and adventure books. That is a current and very real need in city schools as well as rural communities.
Writing teacher resource materials are guides that go along with paperbacks to integrate other subjects during reading time. For example, the book, Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman, is about Medieval England, a subject taught in grades 4-6, depending on the school district.
Another example is a friend of mine who started her own publishing house making consumable workbooks for the lower grades that helped to give practice with counting money. She called around to find out what the teachers needed and filled that need. Her biggest customers are New York City schools, even though she doesn’t live nearby.
Writing historical fiction and nonfiction goes along with the teacher resource materials mentioned in the above paragraph. Books that are hot right now are books about kids at certain points in our history. They are written from a kid’s point of view and help today’s kids learn history facts because they can relate to the kid(s) in the story. Another need that I hear about from teachers in my state is a book on our state’s history. Look to see what books in your state are written at a 3-4 grade level, and whether or not they are up to date.
Writing self published programs that schools can use is also a matter of finding out what is needed. Schools are always looking for new and better materials. Do you have an idea for an interesting way to teach a subject? Check out www.mindsparks.com, a company that uses political cartoons to teach history, and you will see what I mean.
Finally, check out your own state’s department of education web site for information on curriculum. They will list the curriculum requirements and the base for your writing efforts. Your state’s URL is probably similar to mine: www.nysed.gov. For information on a listing of schools in your state, a company called Market Data Retrieval publishes school directories for each state for $80; their site is www.schooldata.com.
Good luck empowering our kids to learn!
Elaine Grannis currently is employed for Sundance and Newbridge publishers, where she visits schools across New York State. She created a teacher training video on using nonfiction materials in the classroom, and, in addition to selling books to schools, she give workshops for teachers on how to use them effectively. She has been invited to give her workshops at the New York State Reading Association conference, New York State Council for Social Studies conference, and Purchase College’s “Science is Elementary” conference, along with many schools and some teacher colleges. She is the publisher of www.empoweringkids.com, a resource site for parents, teachers and kids, along with a bullying prevention program for schools that is soon to be in print for parents. Her background includes health care sales, teaching and educational sales. She lives with her husband, Dan, and together they have three sons, ages 24, 23, and 19, each of whom are successful and caring individuals. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org