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One of the cool things about living in North Carolina is Baen Books headquarters is here, not New York. Yes, that Baen Books with David Weber, Margaret Ball, Eric Flint, Sharon Lee, etc. So a writing convention in these parts will have at least one Baen representative, maybe even the big lady herself, Toni Weisskopf. At one of the conventions I attended Ms. Weisskopf told us about a thing. Baen Books offers teachers’ guides FOR FREE to some of its young adult (YA) oriented materials – guides good for the classroom or homeschooling.
I know last month’s geeking science was on “The Sell”, and make no mistake Baen Books is not doing this exclusively out of their hearts. The teachers’ guides are free, the books themselves – sometimes – are not. On the other hand this particular sell dovetails well into their core business while also having beneficial results. The teachers’ guides not only support reading (and every publisher supports reading), but also encourages students to use the science fiction as a jumping point to learn history and science. Where someone might go “who care how prize money was awarded by England during the wars?”, reading about the prize money collected by the Manticore Navy in Basilisk Station by David Weber raises an interest – then the rabbit hole shows a student what money meant (economics), how money was divided (math), which wars had the most money given (history) and a dozen other interests. By the way, Basilisk Station is a free book just like the teachers’ guide.
Is this “The Sell” or a publishing company giving back to their customers? The creation of the teachers’ guides did cost money – proofing, adding to the website, etc. Having met Ms. Weisskopf and Mr. Weber and the other authors participating in this program, I know its a bunch of people geeking out about how to get people involved in education by using the carrot instead of the stick. These are people who pour over research to get the covers right – did that uniform in 1637 have four or five pockets? Information and words are their life!
And they want to pass on that passion.
The Young Adult list at Baen Books ( http://www.baen.com/bookdata/ya ) contains a vetted list by Ms. Weisskopf. The ones with little books beside them contain teachers’ guides. Over twenty are available.
Teaching through science fiction – man, I wish this was around when I was a kid.
WRITING EXERCISE: Create a small guide for a reading group based on your work in-progress (WIP). Put together at least six questions.
READING EXERCISE: Pick one of the teachers’ guides and work your way through it. Which book did you pick and what did you learn from the guide?