Rock the Drop: carpet the planet in young adult literature

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14 Responses to “Rock the Drop: carpet the planet in young adult literature”

  1. penguinchris says:

    I agree that “unexpected places” is better, but there are plenty of indoors places where free books would be unexpected – bus stops and cemetery fences are not the only places kids hang out or traverse; they do go inside sometimes. Coffee shops near schools are a good target, if you’re able to leave the books there just before school lets out.

    I also agree that the bookplate/bookmark is not at all well designed, in terms of conveying the right information (the art is fine, though it clearly hasn’t been designed so that it would print well on typical cheap ink jet printers that most people have, or in black and white from a laser printer).

    It definitely needs to be made 100% clear what the book is doing there – state clearly that it’s free, why it’s free, and who it’s intended for.

    Also, I agree with the grumbling comment about the “graciously donated by readergirlz and friends”. Not to minimize readergirlz – obviously they’re behind it and should be credited – but you’d get more people to do it if that wasn’t in the main text. I might be interested in leaving some books around, but I’ve never heard of readergirlz and so I’m not their friend.

    Finally, for the typical BB comment cynicism bit – I don’t have high hopes that many of these books will actually make it into the hands of kids or young adults. It’s a great idea though, and if even just a few kids pick up books that might not have otherwise, it’ll be a success. Hopefully people won’t just be dumping their old pulp Star Wars and Judy Blume novels, though, and some kids find some better quality stuff (*glances at shelf full of crappy star wars novels from my youth hoping nobody notices…*) Of course, if you leave good books lying around, adults will pick them up and keep them no matter what the book plate says!

  2. Broche says:

    I totally want to be in support of this, but I agree with some of the comments that the odds of people, especially teens, actually picking up books lying around is pretty slim, which means, what will happen to these books after tomorrow? Frankly, it’s almost like littering. Are we supposed to go around the day after tomorrow and see if our books are still there and if not, to recollect them?

    I really support the idea of putting books in the hands of teens who may not, for whatever reasons, have access to a plethora of quality YA literature, but I’m not sure the execution was thought out as thoroughly as it could be. Love the enthusiasm, but could it be directed in a way that’s more helpful? I wish I could have sat in on the original meeting for this. These creative ideas should be supported but tempered with a little more reality into something that would actually reach teens without being 80% useless.

    Perhaps looking into local teen rec centers (if any exist), YMCA reading programs, those underfunded libraries you mentioned, holding a book drive for specifically YA literature people have been hording and donating it to a local library or school with volunteers to help make sure the collection is looked through and vetted appropriately, or start a campaign to get local places like sandwich shops, laundromats, etc. to put in a small bookcase in a corner where people can take and leave books for free – just some suggestions about how something like this might work more fully within certain communities.

    Also, there already is a worldwide community of book droppers called BookCrossing. Go to http://www.bookcrossing.com to check it out and see what they have to say about this type of leaving books places mentality.

  3. SamSam says:

    Sounds fun, but I’d make it a little more clear on the bookmark left with the book what this is. Nowhere does it say that the book is free, being given away to YAs. You’d have to already know what the project is in order not to feel like stealing when taking the book, or, more likely, leaving it where it is.

    Even something as simple as putting “FREE BOOK for whoever picks it up!” on that label would make it more obvious.

    Also (grumble grumble), if I’m going to buy a book to leave it somewhere, I don’t know why I’d use a label that says “Generously donated by readergirlz” on it… Maybe “Generously donated by some anonymous person. Find out more at…”? But that aside, props to readergirlz for making this happen.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I live in NYC and unfortunately my fear of bedbugs would keep me from picking up any book I found in a public place, but this would be awesome if I lived somewhere else!

  5. Lorie Ann Grover says:

    Thanks for the tips, SamSam. It definitely would help to add “Free Book!”

    Our intention is to use the label as a way to welcome other YA lit lovers to our community.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  6. burritoflats says:

    Interesting idea, and not one that I’m unfamiliar with, as I sometimes “drop” art projects and self-produced CDs around town in order to “prime the pump” – however, I have NEVER surreptitiously left my art items outside. Leaving books for teenagers willy nilly on bus benches and in parks or anywhere else outside is an assured way of having your book end up in the gutter, soaked with sprinkler water, run over by a car or even eaten by squirrels or used by the homeless as insulation for their shoes

    I always leave my stuff inside actual buildings where the chances of being found and used
    increase a thousand fold. Anyway, that’s what I do. Best of luck and drop those books!

    • Donald Petersen says:

      A thousandfold might be a bit much, but then, I live in an area with mostly fine weather. I once happened upon a perfectly decent Louis L’Amour paperback wedged into (of all things) a cemetery fence about 100 feet north of a bus stop. Since the fence was too far away from any graves to have been left for (or by) the dead, I helped myself and read it.

      Now I have a use for the several dozen old Star Wars books I have that I’ll never read again. The Discworld paperbacks, however, I think I’ll keep for my kids.

      • burritoflats says:

        “A thousandfold might be a bit much”

        Having done this sort of “dropping” thing since about 1984 I’ll stick solidly to my assertion that it’s 1000-fold better to leave things (you want people to find) inside, rather than leave items outside.

        In terms of this “worldwide” book dropping event, it makes more sense to slip books between other books inside libraries or actual bookstores. Even dropping a book in shoe store inside a mall is preferable to leaving it helpless on a bus bench

  7. lunchcoma says:

    I like this idea, particularly today. I usually grab lunch at a supermarket deli that’s also popular with high school students because it’s cheap and close to the school. Today I was sort of cursing them – not because they were doing anything wrong, just for making the lines longer. Then I felt like a jerk for resenting people simply for being present and different from me. One of the tables there would be a good place to leave a book, I think. If none of the customers pick it up, the employees can take it to the break room, where something to read is usually welcome.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is a cute idea. For the next one, can we consider dropping YA books at under-funded schools and libraries?

  9. Donald Petersen says:

    In terms of this “worldwide” book dropping event, it makes more sense to slip books between other books inside libraries or actual bookstores.

    Y’know, there’s a reason why the plan is to drop books in “unexpected places.” If you’re trying to support teen literacy, the last place you’d need to leave a stash of free books is in a bookstore or library. The kids who would be found in such establishments probably have a good start on their literacy, and might even be reluctant to remove anything from them without paying for fear of being misperceived as a shoplifter. The empty-pocketed kid at the bus stop who never bothered to get a library card might, however, be tempted to crack open that dogeared Judy Blume sitting there on the bench.

    I think the “unexpected places” approach is solid, squirrels and rain be damned.

    • burritoflats says:

      “If you’re trying to support teen literacy…”

      Well, honestly if I was trying to promote teen literacy
      I wouldn’t “drop books” haphazardly in the outside environment.

      What are the odds that an actual illiterate teen will find your book(s)
      when they’re probably busy and distracted texting their friends?

      I think your story about the “empty-pocketed kid” without a library card
      sitting dejectedly at a bus stop who happens to have his life changed
      by a book left by a stranger is quite odd and pie-in-the-sky

      In a way, I think this “drop a book” program is more for the droppers
      and less about the kids who need books. Instead of dropping books
      how about actually handing them to librarians at middle schools.?

      Dropping books around town just seems silly unless you’re doing it
      as some sort of artistic or conceptual way of expressing yourself.

      PS – another option is to just drop blank checks everywhere
      and hope illiterate teens find them and cash the checks and buy books.
      Makes about the same sense to me. But that’s just me.

      • Donald Petersen says:

        Makes about the same sense to me. But that’s just me.

        It is indeed. You don’t like the idea, don’t do it. But then,

        Dropping books around town just seems silly unless you’re doing it as some sort of artistic or conceptual way of expressing yourself.

        Well, that’s where we differ. It seems sillier to me if “you’re doing it as some sort of artistic or conceptual way of expressing yourself.” I know, I know, you creative types like to get your works out there, and you mentioned the “priming the pump” reason which makes a certain amount of sense. But see, that’s more about self-aggrandization than anything else. It’s all about you, even if it takes the form of showing the world how nifty your creations are. I don’t mean to imply that that is somehow not a valid motivation for artists to distribute their works (a great many artists that I like had to make a living somehow or other, and pimping their art beats working in an industrial laundry, if you ask me), but to imply that art-pimping is the only logical (or non-silly) reason for showering the landscape with books is, in my opinion, silly.

        Do not read too much miraculous pie-in-the-skyness into the bus stop. Who said the kid’s life would be changed? The issue isn’t that an illiterate kid will happen upon a stash of YA books and use them to teach himself to read, a la Frankenstein’s monster finding a bag of works by Plutarch and Goethe (now there’s a pie-in-the-sky passage!). The thing is, there are a lot of kids out there who can read, and yet don’t read for fun, some of them partly because they don’t have easy access to fun books to read. Their homes don’t have a hell of a lot of books, maybe, and if their school library is still funded at all, it might have inconvenient hours, poor selection, or some social stigma attached to it. You might think these kids are rare examples, or completely made-up, and if so you would be well-served to get out of your comfortably literate (if uncomfortably rainy and squirrel-infested) neighborhood and come visit the schools where my wife teaches in Los Angeles.

        Reading for fun is an absolutely essential foundation for literacy. I’ve mentioned it before, but my mother still tells the tale of how her neighbors used to look down their noses and sneer at the fact that she allowed her kids to read comic books. “You allow them to read such trash?” they’d ask, recoiling in horror. “Hey, at least they’re reading,” she’d reply. And a couple decades later, some of those kids of hers were making their living by writing and reading.

        The problem lies in getting kids to read who don’t normally do it under their own steam. And as unthinkable as it may seem to you, some kids actually do have trouble getting easy access to age-appropriate reading materials. Anything that helps change that regrettable situation is a good thing, whether it’s indoors or out.

      • lunchcoma says:

        I think the goal is to encourage teenagers to read more frequently, not to win over avid non-readers. There are a lot of things I’d pick up and enjoy if they were sitting in front of me and free that I wouldn’t necessarily go out and buy or borrow, and I think the same is true for young people. It’s also a way to possibly expose a teenager who reads but only reads….uh, I’m not going to criticize anyone who writes literature for young people, but I’m sure most of us can fill in the blank with a series we dislike…to something a little outside the norm.

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