December 21


The Margin Project by Jen Malone

Hey there, Nerdy crew! We’re a fun-loving group of passionate booklovers, right? Pretty social too, huh? Guess what? So are the kids we teach, find library books for and, in my case, write for.  In fact, 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 our kids on their own terms and make it so? Enter The Margin Project.


The Margin Project is my pet project, originating from the antics of a group of over a hundred 2014 debut kidlit authors. To help us better cheerlead each other’s titles, we sent our advance reader copies on an extensive mail tour to one another. Most of us invited notes in the margins, leading to pages that looked like this:

AYS 2 copy


Our books had merits all their own, but the margin notes… Oh my gosh, the margin notes! 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 (apparently we are impatient with our YA romances, judging by the number of “Just kiss him already!!” notations littering those books!) Some even took the time to draw the characters in scene:



Few of us are close, geographically-speaking, but we got to know one another in those notes and it sparked an idea:


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


Okay, so the concept is easy. 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!) thoughts while reading. A colored pen or a symbol next to each person’s comments (with a key in the back), help distinguish who said what. That’s it. A circle of friends, a classroom, or a library book club can pass a book around and doodle away. If you want to really open up the share, there’s even a Pinterest page where people can post pics of the results.


The main idea is to add a little extra fun to the read, but many schools and libraries have found ways to incorporate The Margin Project into their programming as well.  Here are some examples teachers and librarians have shared with me:


  1. Meetingless book club. Perfect for kids who can’t attend or are too shy to speak up during meetings or in class. 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.


  1. 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 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. This can be a fun way for kids in a neighborhood classroom to read their summer books as well- sharing commentary as they go. The notes could spur a class discussion upon return.


  1. Some libraries are dedicating a small shelf of books as Margin Project selections and allowing patrons to write notes in those to share with other patrons.


  1. Classroom trade-off. Each classroom is passing around a few books among their students and then they will be mailed to a partner classroom across the country. The classes in question are choosing local authors and/or settings to share with their counterparts.


Want to try it yourself? I’ve got free printable bookmarks and bookplates on my website at The nerdy crew is so amazing at championing books- if you come up with your own way to use The Margin Project, I’d love to hear about it  – and please send pictures for the Pinterest board!


official author photocvr9781481402835_9781481402835_hrJen Malone writes books for tweens and teens. Her debut middle grade At Your Service published with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIX in 2014 and her new MG series, You’re Invited (Simon & Schuster), co-written with Gail Nall, launches with Book #1 in 2015. She has three young adult titles forthcoming with HarperCollins, beginning with Map to the Stars in Summer 2015. Jen lives outside Boston with her husband and three children, teaches at Boston University, loves school visits, and has “a thing” for cute hedgehog pictures. You can learn more about her and her books at