IBPA Member Spotlight: Boys Town Press
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Posted by: Christopher Locke
Boys Town Press’ Uniquely Wired Receives Learning Magazine’s 2019 Teachers’ Choice Award for Children’s Books
|Uniquely Wired author Julia Cook reads her book to students in a classroom in China.
“We were very excited to learn that our book, [Uniquely Wired by Julia Cook], and activities bundle received the Learning Teachers’ Choice Award for Children’s Books!” says Boys Town Press Director Erin Green. She goes on to explain why Boys Town Press was especially proud to receive this particular award. “That this award is the only award that comes from a review panel of teachers means a great deal, because it tells us we are on the right track, and that we have produced a resource that will touch the lives of children, families, and educators in meaningful ways.”
|Boys Town Press' Uniquely Wired by Julia Cook
Boys Town Press, a non-profit publishing house, is the publishing arm of the original Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home (the one featured in the 1938 movie Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy). Boys Town was founded in 1917, and then Boys Town Press was founded in 1989. The independent publishing company actually started by producing videos, which provided examples and instructions on using Boys Town’s methodologies and teaching model to work with at-risk children who have frequent and intense misbehaviors. Their products include reference and instructional materials for counselors and youth-serving professionals, activity guides and tools for educators, parent resources, and children’s books. Their children’s books are known to provide an entertaining way to teach children the social skills they need to be successful in school, at home, and later in life.
Uniquely Wired is told from the perspective of Zak, a child with autism spectrum disorder who describes himself as “uniquely wired.” Erin says that in the book Zak “describes some of his atypical behaviors (such as his fascination with watches, lack of eye contact, flapping, or spinning) and explains the purpose of those behaviors. Through the story, the reader is introduced to caring people in Zak’s life, who have come to recognize that Zak’s behaviors, though challenging at times, provide them with tremendous gifts, such as patience, curiosity, understanding that fair and equal are not the same thing, and being mindful of what they say and how they say it. Zak reminds the reader that he feels the same emotions and physical sensations other kids feel: bad when people are mean, alone when he’s excluded, hungry, tired, cold, hot, happy, or sad. It’s just harder for him to talk about it.”
|Boys Town Press' new book Empathy is My Superpower! by Bryan Smith
Next on the horizon for Boys Town Press are Empathy is My Superpower! by Bryan Smith, which comes out October 1, and What’s in It for Me?, by Julia Cook (the sixth installment in the popular Responsible ME! book series), which comes out October 15.
Two Questions With Boys Town Press Director Erin Green
IBPA: Can you list three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?
Erin Green (EG): Having been in business as an independent publisher for nearly 30 years, we have learned the following:
- Figure out early where your strengths lie. Where is your expertise? What makes you different from others out there?
- Know your audience. Who are they? What are their needs? What challenges do they face, and what unique solutions can you provide to help solve those issues?
- Focus! You will never be able to match the big dogs out there, so don’t spend too much energy trying. That’s not to say you should never take risks, but Boys Town Press has been able to grow by making sure the risks we take are calculated and by staying focused on our overall mission. Over the past several years, we have more than doubled the annual number of products we develop, and significantly increased our annual revenue!
IBPA: Can you give some tips to other indie publishers who also create educational materials about techniques that have worked well in terms of providing resources for educators, parents, and youth-serving professionals?
EG: One of the reasons Boys Town Press has been successful with educators is our very close connection with our sister department, which provides services to schools and agencies nationally and internationally using the Boys Town Education Model®. This connection gives us some brand recognition with educators who are familiar with the Boys Town Model® of Care.
Keeping our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in education, and staying aware of trends—everything from legislation and funding to new technologies—is important. Educators have a lot of options out there!
Finally, keep what’s important to the educators themselves in mind. Large decisions in spending are made by superintendents, district officials, and other administrative leadership. But educators are key influencers in these decisions. And they have a lot on their plates, and not a lot of time to research. So making information more readily available to them not only serves them better, but also may help them find more value in the products or services you are providing.
IBPA: Thank you, Erin, for sharing your story with the IBPA community, and congratulations again on receiving this honor!
Learn more about Boys Town Press here.
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