Thursday, April 18, is Support Teen Lit Day, a holiday meant to raise public awareness that Y.A. literature is great. There are plenty of ways one might celebrate teen literature on any day of the year, but the Young Adult Library Services Association has some extra-special activities planned in particular. One of the most charming and easy ways to participate is via Rock the Drop, a teen book drop initiative begun by literacy and social media project Readergirlz.
Rock the Drop started in 2008 after Y.A. author Justina Chen, a founding member of Readergirlz, spent some time at her local children's hospital while researching a novel. She realized teen patients "didn't have a whole lot to comfort them" and in an effort to change that started getting extra copies of books at book signings and dropping those off at the hospital for the kids. That spurred Operation Teen Book Drop, a widespread movement to donate books to teen patients at hospitals, and from that came the on-the-streets effort, Rock the Drop, for which readers, authors, and publishing companies are encouraged to leave books—designated with "Rock the Drop" bookplates, above—around their neighborhoods and towns for readers to discover. Consider it spreading the love, the Y.A. book way. Since the inception of these two programs, more than 30,000 books have been donated to hospitals, and though it's unknown how many books have been dropped locally over the years, Y.A. author and Readergirlz blogger Melissa Walker numbers it in the thousands.
This year Walker and fellow Y.A. author Micol Ostow Harlan are leading the Rock the Drop charge, with the help of partners Figment, I Heart Daily, Soho Teen, and 826NYC. Authors including Sarah Dessen, Becca Fitzpatrick, Sarah Mlynowski, Carolyn Mackler, Maureen Johnson, and Megan McCafferty have been involved in years past; others are expected to join in Thursday. Publishers Harper Teen, Egmont, and Bloomsbury will also participate. If you're not into leaving a book out in public somewhere, you can drop books off at 826NYC, which this year is holding a book drive in lieu of the hospital donation. Figment, meanwhile, will be giving books out for people to keep and/or to drop at a table outside their Manhattan office tomorrow, and you can leave your books with them, too.
The Rock the Drop rules are simple: Print out the handy bookplate (designed by Lindsay Frantz; full-sized version here) or write your own note; attach to the books you hope to give away so as to avoid any confusion; and leave the books in whatever locations you desire for other readers to find. "We ask people to post or tweet where they've dropped," said Walker, who has stashed books on benches in Prospect Park, on the subway, and on Church Street (to thematically connect with her book Small Town Sinners). This year she plans to leave her selected drops—Escape Theory by Margaux Froley, Starstruck by Rachel Shukert, Identity Theft by Anna Davies, and Belladonna by Fiona Paul—in Brooklyn and also in Chapel Hill, where she'll be traveling. "They all have covers that will attract attention and will look really cool in a drop photo," she says.
Along with inspiring readership of teen books, the best part of Rock the Drop is that anyone can participate, and "it's really anywhere anyone wants to do it." Not unexpectedly given the devoted followings of Y.A. readers and publishers there, Walker says the biggest support for the effort is in New York, L.A., Seattle, and Austin, but "we've had people say, 'Can I do this in the Philippines, can I do this anywhere?'" The answer is yes. If you have a great teen read, or several, that you want to share, Thursday's your day; if you see Y.A. books lying around, now you know what it's all about. "It's a fun, all-day thing," says Walker.