Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 9, 2012

Using Academic Standards as a Marketing Tool

Tying Your Book to Academic Standards and

Using Academic Standards as a Key Marketing Tool

By: Jennifer Reinharz, M.S.Ed

            Jane Kirkland is the creator of Take a Walk Books (www.takeawalk.com), a self published nature book series as well as an accomplished and award winning author, speaker, photographer and TV/radio personality.

            When educators purchase books and materials to use in the classroom, they make sure their selections are aligned with the state’s academic standards.  When writers market their work, they think about the best way to appeal to the audience. 

By tying her books to academic standards, Ms. Kirkland has found a creative but practical way to bridge these two worlds.  She recommends that writers try it as it is an opportunity to market one’s work, sell more books and programs, and gain a deeper understanding of the audience, school-aged children.

What are academic standards? 

            Academic standards are a list of learning goals that children must meet in every grade or every other grade.  They are divided into two types: content standards or what a student needs to know and performance standards or how well a student can perform that goal.

            Standards exist in each of the main content areas: English/Language Arts (ELA), Social Studies, Math and Science.  The academic standards do not provide materials or assessment.  It is the role of the teacher and administrators to determine the method or curriculum for teaching these goals. 

            Academic standards for students in grades K-12 continue to evolve.  Standards typically vary by state and in some cases, by city.  In 2010, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers created a set of standards called the Common Core State Standards for Math and English/Language Arts (which includes literacy in Social Studies and Science).  To date, 45 states have voluntarily adopted these standards.  Effective September 2012, all of the school districts in these states will align their related curriculum with the new learning goals. 

What does this mean for writers?

            Administrators and teachers are and will continue to pay close attention to fiction and nonfiction materials purchased for the classroom to ensure that they fit with the academic standards.   

            By correlating one’s work to current standards, it becomes a viable teaching tool that helps to supplement curriculum.  It also might become recommended or required reading.  This can help sell more books. 

            By correlating school programs to the standards, a writer expands her funding sources beyond parent associations to include the school district and educational grants.  It can also help to secure annual school visits and sell more programs.

            Knowing the standards gives a writer a better understanding of what the reader is supposed to know and be able to do at his grade level.

Here’s an example:

            With her Take a Walk Books in mind, Ms. Kirkland read the 4th grade Pennsylvania Science Standards.  One 4th grade learning goal is that children must be able to compare lotic with lentic water systems.  To help students understand this concept, she included the definitions of lotic and lentic in the text of her book and made a notation that it addressed standard 4.1.4 in the Pennsylvania 4th grade standards.

            It is important to note that a writer can do the same thing using any content area and that the work can be fiction or nonfiction.

How do you get started?

  • Pick a state or search the Common Core State Standards to find participating states:   
    • State Department of Education websites
    • www.education-world.com
    • www.corestandards.org
    • Download the standards
    • Choose the grade(s) for which your work applies
    • Choose the content standards within that grade (English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science)
    • Open your book or manuscript and write the related standard in the margins
    • Show your annotated book to a teacher and ask her to look over her interpretation of your book as it relates to the standards
    • Follow up and revise as needed
    • Create a matrix with the book title and outline the standards that you address
    • Show teachers ways in which your book can help them in the classroom via a brochure, website, blog, and school visits

How do you find the time and help to do this?

  • Ask a student teacher or a teacher for help.  Pay her and/or give her credit for the work.
  • Reach out to educators via your website, blog, newsletter, Twitter and Pinterest.  Use word of mouth and inquire at teacher workshops.
  • Search the internet for companies that do standards correlation
  • Ask your publisher.  They may be staffed for this or may have contracted a company.

            As a writer and an educator, I think Ms. Kirkland’s approach is exceptional.  This type of collaboration will not only help the writer to sell more books and the educator to enhance her curriculum, it will encourage dialogue between two professionals who play a meaningful role in a child’s life.

Thank you Jennifer to sharing Jane’s workshop with us.  Jane has used these techniques to get in front of a lot of kids in many schools.  I attended one of her workshops a few years ago and I know how much knowlege she has to share.  I am sure she could do a full afternoon showing writers the ropes.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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