Author Spotlight

The Margin Project: Making Books Social

The current generation of kids has been termed the “Me Generation” and judging by the number of selfies my daughter posts to Instagram daily, those labelers might be onto something. Everything is social for them: sleeping with a cell under the pillow for  “emergency” midnight text sessions, gaming while chatting on headsets, tv watching while hashtagging on Twitter, reading while… wait, no. Reading isn’t social.

But why not meet kids on their own terms and make it so?

The Margin Project is a new incentive that originated from the antics of a group of 2014 debut kidlit authors. To allow us to better promote each other’s titles, we sent our advance copies on a mail tour to one another. Most of us invited notes, leading to pages that looked like these:

photophoto 1photo 4 copyOur books have merits all their own, but the margin notes enhanced the read exponentially.  Often the scribbled comments/doodles were laugh out loud funny, highlighted a line that might otherwise have gone unnoticed, or offered an inside glimpses into the lives of those reading. Few of us are close, physically speaking, but we got to know one another in those notes, and it gave me a thought:

If something makes reading this much fun, shouldn’t it be shared?

The concept is simple. Books are designated as part of the The Margin Project by a simple bookplate on the inside cover. This lets readers know they are free to write or doodle (clean and friendly) comments while reading. That’s it. There’s even a Pinterest page where people can post the results.

bookplateThe early response from librarians and teachers has been tremendous. I’ve heard from libraries that have or are planning to introduce The Margin Project in several ways:

  1. Meeting-less book club. Perfect for kids who can’t attend, or are too shy to speak up at, meetings. Six different books go into rotation at once, so that, by the end of six months, all kids will have read and made notes in the same six books.
  2. Summer reading program. One library is printing copies of The Margin Program bookplates and offering them to patrons along with a flyer introducing the program as a fun way for friends to stay in touch over the summer or for grandparents and grandchildren to share a book on the child’s summer reading list across a geographical distance. In this case, the library isn’t providing the books, necessarily, but rather introducing the program and offering the tools to get participants started. There will be prizes for patrons who send pictures of their margin notes to the library by a program end date.
  3. Some libraries are dedicating a small shelf of books as Margin Project selections and allowing patrons to write notes to share with other patrons.
  4. Library trade-off. One library is passing around a few books among its patrons and then they will be mailed to a partner library across the country. The libraries in question are choosing local authors/settings.

This program is just getting off the ground, and I’d love to hear (and then share) more ideas for introducing it to readers. More information on The Margin Project, along with free printable bookmarks and bookplates, can be found at


Our guest blogger today is Jen Malone. Jen’s  first middle grade novel AT YOUR SERVICE, about a tween concierge at a posh NYC hotel, publishes this August with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin Mix.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

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