Tag Archive for Response to Bystander

Fan Mail Wednesday #143-146: Some Recent Letters from Teachers about BYSTANDER

I’ve been getting a lot of mail from teachers who are using Bystander in their classrooms. From early on, that was my hope for this book — a talking book, a valuable conversation starter in the hands of a good teacher and a lively classroom. I’m happy to see that it’s been embraced in the 5th grade, as well some 4th-grade classrooms. Overall, most readers seem to be in grades 6-8.

Here’s a sampling of emails from teachers I’ve received over the past few weeks. As always, some personal info has been deleted to protect the innocent  . . .

Hi James,

I’m a 4th grade teacher in Iowa. Today I started reading Bystander aloud to the class. I think this is my 3rd year in a row reading the book and I LOVE IT!!! As the kids were listening their mouths were ajar. (I love that!)

Thanks for sharing your awesome talent –- with such an important message.


And from Hawaii . . .

Dear Mr Preller,

My name is ____ ______ and I am a 5th grade teacher on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. I am currently reading the book with my students and I have some students who would like to write you some “fan-mail” and replies to reading your book. On your web site you do not have an address in which we could mail you. Could you possibly email me your address?

Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks so much!

Love the book! My students cannot put it down!



I replied: James Preller, 12 Brookside Drive, Delmar, NY 12054.

I also might have added something about being available for school visits. Aloha, baby.

Hi James!  I teach fifth grade and we read Bystander as a class.  They LOVED LOVED LOVED it.  You are a rock star.  One of my students took the initiative to write you a letter but I cannot find the address to send it.  He even included a self-addressed stamped envelope in the hopes of hearing from you.  Can you please send me the address?  I would really appreciate it.

And lastly, from the Windy City . . .

Mr. Preller,

I would like to inquire about having you come to visit our middle school in late August or early September of 2012 (the beginning of the next school year).

We have adopted your novel, Bystander, as an all-school summer reading novel for all students in our building, grades 6-8 (about 900 students).  Our School Climate Committee has been meeting this year to develop a more effective anti-bullying initiative in our school, and your novel is a perfect match for this project.

Please let me know your availability and fees.  We are located in _______, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago.  Here is a link to our school’s web page linked to our district’s site if you would like to get a sense of our community.

Thank you,


I replied, in part . . .


This sounds wonderful, though there are some obstacles in our path.

I live outside of Albany, NY, so there is travel to consider. Generally speaking, I prefer to have a minimum of three full days of work for any trip. Four is better. The best arrangements come when schools in a district coordinate their efforts — and share the expense of plane tickets — and I’m invited somewhere for 4-5 school days.  Is that enough to get you started?

Lastly, thank you. I’m very glad to hear about your efforts, and glad that my book might help in the process for cultivating a safe, happy community of learners.

My best,


Fan Mail Wednesday #137 (A Response to BYSTANDER)

I get incredible letters. It might be from a child who loved a picture book, or a boy who got turned on to reading through Jigsaw Jones, or a baseball nut who loved Six Innings. But more and more, I get letters in response to my book, Bystander. The senders of these missives are older than most of my readers in the past. They write longer, with more skill, more depth, and often with more feeling.

This week, because I’m on the road visiting schools for ten days (OH, NJ), I’m going to pass along of few in succession, just to give you a taste. As always, simply click on the letter to make it larger for readability.

I replied:

Dear ______:

I don’t like to begin my letters with an apology, but sometimes it’s necessary. I’m sorry for the lateness of my response to your letter.

Please don’t get the idea that I don’t appreciate what you did, or the things you shared about your own experiences at _______ Middle School.

Writing can be lonely work. It’s mostly done in a quiet room, scribbling words on a blank page. Likewise, reading is also a thing done in isolation, often in silence. And yet here we are, you and me, miraculously connected through the written word.

Aren’t books incredible? You as a reader can feel that connection with me, and with so many other writers from all over the world . . . and from hundreds of years ago. Wow, when you think about it, just wow.

As always, “Stand up! Speak out! Be kind!”

My best,