I had the chance to do and online interview with Will Weaver to learn more about this site pairing e-books, authors, and reader's guides. After reading the interview, please take a look at the website to get the full experience of the awesomeness of what these authors are doing.
How did LitWeaver come to life virtually?
WW: I do lots of school visits, and over the years have seen the increasing pressure on ELA teachers and school librarians. Budgets always seem in decline– especially for classroom sets of novels and new acquisitions for libraries. Some principals and superintendents believe “technology is the answer”, and find money for tablets—but none for staff support or even curriculum. The Learning Management Systems from big publishers look cumbersome and expensive—so it hit me that there has to be a better way. A middle ground, you could say, as schools transition from print textbooks to digital learning
Give a brief description of what LitWeaver does
WW: LitWeaver is designed to be a bridge from your five pound lit anthology to iPad and tablet-style reading and learning. We’ve purposefully focused on shorter, contemporary young adult lit—short stories, essays, poems, and plays—that teachers can “weave” (get it?) into their ongoing curriculum. Teachers need a break from the same readings every year! LitWeaver also includes a short lesson plan with with discussion questions and reading prompts.
How did you get the authors on board with this idea?
WW: You mean Katherine Paterson? Jerry Spinelli? Ellen Hopkins? Rene Saldana? Nikki Grimes? Those kinds of authors? (Shameless name-dropping here, ha). Actually it was easy to get our 50+ authors on board. They (we) have had such amazing support over the years from teachers and librarians who have bought our books and invited us to their schools, and here was a chance to give back.
Teachers and students will have access to e-books. Are these all free to read and download?
WW: We believe in free stuff for schools, and we’ll always have a nice batch (about 20 titles to begin) of free reading. But our website has bills to pay, so we’ll eventually add a low-cost subscription option for “more”—that is, access to our whole library plus some other cool teaching and learning tools. FYI, LitWeaver will never have a huge library—that’s exactly what we don’t want. We are curating (buzzword nowadays) a select group of really good readings for grades 5-12 so you don’t have to spend time looking online or through huge, publishers’ catalogs. Our editor, Don Gallo, and the authors themselves have picked pieces we know students will read—and maybe even like.
Each book comes with a reading guide. Who created those?
WW: Current classroom ELA teachers. We have a great, small team of lively teachers dedicated to keeping kids reading and thinking (a big focus on the latter)!
Currently LitWeaver is in beta stage. When do you anticipate it becoming a full site?
WW: Within 5-6 months, that is, in time for the new school year. Our beta release is to gauge support. If we get a lot of teachers signing up (for free), we’ll get investor funding. If we get investor funding, we can build out LitWeaver to provide LOTS of free and low cost YA lit for schools. Nothing not to like about that.
The cost of becoming a LitWeaver user is free right now. Will free users be able to keep this status after LitWeaver is fully functional?
WW: Yes. We’ll always have a rotating section of “free stuff” by top, contemporary authors. If you only want to use these free readings, that’s fine. But we hope you’ll find enough value and excitement in LitWeaver to eventually subscribe as a paid user. As I mentioned, websites like our are expensive to build and maintain. Looking ahead to new features, we’ll be adding a student writing component, which will be a fun complement to the reading side.
Thank you so much Will!! I've already gone to the site and demo'ed it out and it's really pretty intuitive. I'm SO glad there are authors like you and the several others who contribute their time and energy to create passionate readers!!
WW: One last thing. LitWeaver doesn’t assume that all schools have 1:1 tablet technology. If you don’t, no problem. You can select readings and print them out for distribution in class. We believe in access first, technology second. And please remember that our site is in open beta right now, which means we’re still working on it–so we’d love to hear your ideas. And very important: if you like where LitWeaver is headed, please sign up and help us get there.