Why aren't teachers consultants to Book Publishers? We read a gazillion books a year - at LEAST four a day, and more at night and on the weekends. We nowwhat kids like, what they laugh about, what they cry about, who they are interested in, and what works and what doesn't. We are in the school library, the public library, the used bookstores, the yard sales and Barnes and Noble looking at books. Honestly, shouldn't WE be the ones hunting through the slush piles?
Sometimes teachers are consultants to publishers. But I'm surprised to hear that you think you have the time to read our piles of slush. I know some teachers who are as dedicated as you describe, and they work as much as I do (or more!).
The people who do tend to have the time, and the knowledge, are experienced booksellers. It's true they know less about children than teachers, but they're more likely to have an eye on the market as a whole, and they know more about what sells. And that's important. If you can't sell a book, you're never going to have the chance to share it with a child, no matter how appropriate to children it is.
But heck, if you want to read slush, write to publishers in your area and send them your resume. Make a case for why you're qualified to judge submissions. If you ask me, people who read slush should not only have a whole bunch of experience with children's books, they should:
1. read all age groups of children's books. If you don't read YA, how will you judge the YA manuscripts you get?
2. read what's current. If you don't know what's new and exciting in different age groups, you won't know which manuscripts are copycats, and which are breaking fresh ground.
3. be extremely hopeful. People who you can bury under a kitchen's worth of slush, and who will still say (muffledly) "I think I see something!"
Slush is a dirty job. Struggling through those piles takes intelligence and resilience and a sense of humor. You have to be the sort of person to whom grammatical mistakes, bad rhyme, and self-indulgent treacle are torture, and then read piles of grammatical mistakes, bad rhyme, and self-indulgent treacle. There are sweet and wonderful things to be found, for the sharp of eye, but it's like throwing yourself in a briar patch because you know there's a single blackberry in there. If you're crazy enough to want to do it ...well, come join the club.