Teacher Guides: Lee & Low’s Katie Potter Offers a Publisher’s Perspective

By Gayleen Rabakukk

Today we’re chatting with Katie Potter, Senior Literacy Specialist at Lee & Low Books, to get a publisher’s point of view on teacher guides.

Does Lee & Low create an educator guide for every book you publish?

Yes! Lee & Low Books offers free, high-quality Teacher’s Guides for more than 800 of our books. Lee & Low Books publishes a guide for every frontlist title that is released (and as close to the release date or year that we can!), and are working on completing guides for each of our backlist titles across all imprints. We recognize the demands on educators’ time and understand how critical, efficient, high-impact lesson planning is to a successful classroom. We are honored to support educators in preparing the next generation of readers, thinkers, and global citizens.

How do you decide? Are there certain books that lend themselves to a guide?

Since we will complete a guide for each of our titles, we work closely with the Marketing, Sales, and Editorial teams on aligning our Teacher Guide schedule to the release of the book. We backwards plan according to the publicity schedule for the upcoming year for new releases or if we know a particular title and author have major programs coming up.

Additionally, we also have a list of backlist titles that still need a Teacher’s Guide, and factor those books into our schedule as well. We’re proud to announce that we’re getting closer to completing guides for every single of one of our titles, and believe firmly that every book is deserving of a guide. Of course, once we have ensured each book has a guide, we will be revisiting and revising older guides as educational standards, best practices, and focus areas evolve.

Are the guides created in-house, by the author, or by freelancers?

As a small, independent publisher, we have a small, but mighty team. I create the many of the guides as the Senior Literacy Specialist, plan the Teacher’s Guide schedule each year, and oversee the process as the Teacher’s Guide makes its way through each stage of vetting. However, like the books they seek to support, all our Teacher’s Guides are truly collaborative efforts.

I work closely with the author and editor on each guide to ensure that I have captured the integrity and essence of the book within the guide. I will contact authors before I work on the guide to see if they have any suggestions for activities or questions they want to pose. Since the author is the expert on the text, their input is invaluable during the Teacher’s Guide creation process.

After I complete a guide, I will send it to the editor for her feedback and then finally on to the author for final approval. Certain books require additional expertise depending on the content. We work with a number of impressive cultural and content experts working in academia and the classroom.

For example, we wanted an expert on Maya Angelou to complete the guide for Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou, written by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Tonya Engel (Lee & Low, 2019) and to ensure that we address the sensitive nature of specific scenes in the book accurately and effectively. These experts make sure that the guide is not perpetuating stereotypes and have additional content knowledge and expertise that’s reflected in the guide.

Are the guides typically available on the book’s publication date, or does it happen later?

We prefer to have our guides line up as close to the publication date as possible. Additionally, our content-specific books that we know educators will need support with will have a guide aligned very closely to the publication date. For example, we worked with the author and editor in advance of our first book about Black hair, Magic Like That, written by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Geneva Bowers (Lee & Low, 2021), to ensure that the guide will be available along with the book. We want educators, librarians, and any other individual engaging with our guide to feel confident and informed about the book.

Length and complexity of educator guides varies greatly depending on the age level of the book, but are there key components that are universal across reading levels?

Our Teacher’s Guides all follow the same template that was honed over many years with classroom-testing and educator feedback. The Teacher’s Guide features include summary and background information, prereading focus questions, vocabulary, discussion and comprehension questions, ideas for reader’s response and writing activities, strategies for ESL/ELL, ideas for Social Emotional Learning, home and school applications, as well as interdisciplinary activities and connections for the following subjects: English Language, Arts, Social Studies, Science/STEM, Mathematics, and Arts/Media where applicable.

Each Teacher’s Guide aims to be as comprehensive and exhaustive on the subject matter presented in the book as possible. Additionally, differentiation, collaboration, and accommodation are all elements that are reflected in the guides, and we want educators, librarians and caregivers to feel that there are multiple means of representation, inclusion, and a variety of opportunities for young readers to engage and express themselves.

Do you envision the guides being used by classroom teachers, librarians, homeschooling parents, or all of the above?

The guides have been used by all of the above! They are designed to be adapted to a variety of settings with ease of use in mind—we intentionally decided to have different sections with suggested activities and questions, and not a scripted lesson plan, so that the guides always maintain their flexibility.

Teachers, librarians, and caregivers can pick and choose questions and activities that work best for their students and young readers.

Have you seen a correlation with books having a thorough educator’s guide staying in print longer?

We firmly believe that every book is deserving of a guide, no matter the publication year. Educators, librarians, caregivers, nonprofit organizations, and universities actively seek out our guides for our books.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about educator guides?

We are grateful to the collaborative efforts of each of the departments, the education consultants, and the authors who help us create these Teacher Guides. We hope we can help educators, librarians, and caregivers feel more excited, confident, and eager to use the book with their young readers. For additional questions, you can reach Senior Literacy Specialist, Katie Potter, at for more information.

Cynsational Notes

Katie Potter is the Senior Literacy Specialist at Lee & Low Books. She is responsible for writing and developing the rigorous Teacher’s Guides and Educator Resources for all frontlist titles, in addition to working with university professors and nonprofit organizations on how to incorporate diverse, multicultural literature into curriculum and syllabi.

Prior to Lee & Low, Katie worked as an educational researcher, teacher, and literacy instructor. Katie has a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Spanish from Skidmore College and a Master’s Degree in Childhood General Education Grades 1-6 and Literacy from Bank Street College of Education.

Gayleen Rabakukk teaches creative writing classes for the Austin Public Library Foundation, is an active member of the children’s literature community and the former assistant regional advisor for Austin SCBWI. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

This is the second in a three-part series exploring teacher guides. See Laurie Morrison’s guest post, and watch for tomorrow’s interview with Adrianna Cuevas and Andrea Page, both authors who have created teacher guides as freelancers.