The buzz about Common Core, shorthand for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, has been getting louder in recent months. The overarching goal of the initiative (led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers) is for states to adopt a uniform set of educational standards in English language arts and math that will successfully prepare students for the rigors of college or the workforce. Common Core content requirements allow for classroom use of trade books that meet the initiative’s criteria. To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core, and those states plan to fully implement the standards by 2015.
What does this mean for the children’s book industry? Ideally, a whole lot of knowledge sharing—and increased book sales. The panel discussion, “Common Core: Insight from Industry Touchpoints,” which takes place today, 9:30–10:50 a.m., in Room 1E11, features representatives from the bookselling, publishing, library, and school library arenas who will explain how each of their respective fields is responding to this new approach in education.
Richard Buthod, national sales manager at Turtleback Books, will moderate the panel. Speakers are Becky Anderson, co-owner, Anderson’s Bookshops; Cheryl Dickemper, director of purchasing and collection development, the Booksource; Kenny Brechner, owner of DDG Booksellers; Melissa Jacobs-Israel, coordinator in the office of library services at the New York City Department of Education; Phoebe Yeh, editorial director, HarperCollins Children’s Books; and Victoria Stapleton, director of school and library marketing, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Buthod expects a “packed room” as the speakers dispel Common Core myths and point to ways they can work together in new ways. “Teachers need bookstores for this,” Buthod says. “Bookstores can seize the opportunity because booksellers have up-to-date knowledge that many teachers do not have. They are well matched to schools adopting Common Core.”
As a member of the panel’s bookseller contingent, Brechner plans to share his ideas on what booksellers can do to support Common Core with educational partners in their communities. Paramount to being strong partners is “being an effective resource for schools,” he says. “The best practice for us is to help teachers transition from textbook to trade book, and keep asking how we can make it work.” Brechner believes it is also important to be “cognizant of concerns out there that could derail Common Core or shorten its lifespan.”
Among some of the general concerns being voiced in various states are fears of increased commercialism and complaints that Common Core materials are not written by educators. “Common Core is about real books,” Brechner notes. “It’s about the smooth transition from school to reading books to succeeding in college. If we can show an appreciation and understanding of Common Core and demonstrate that it’s about the power of reading, sales will follow.”
Yeh will share her company’s response to Common Core and use some examples of how some HarperCollins titles can be aligned with the standards. “Our kids are testing worse. They can’t read and write. We need to figure it out.” She’s hopeful about the role publishers can play. “Trade publishers feel that Common Core brings people back to the books, and we are delighted about this.”