On Monday, I had the pleasure of a trip to Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO. I talked to the undergrads there, many of whom are education majors, about my experiences as a writer and a reader (and also as a father to emerging readers). I also got to talk to the students of Canton R-V school. Everyone was awesome, and made me feel extremely welcome. A huge thanks to Professor Glenda McCarty for organizing the whole thing.
Part of the reason I love these visits is because they always get me thinking. And so, in no order whatsoever, here are some random thoughts from my visit:
* When I asked the undergrads how many of them read YA, about one-half raised their hands. When I asked how many had recently read THE HUNGER GAMES, about three-fourths raised their hands. Perhaps it’s because certain books (THE HUNGER GAMES; TWILIGHT) have transcended genre or age boundaries, but it’s good to see the widespread impact YA books are having.
* A few students admitted that they don’t read for pleasure at all. There have always been non-readers, of course (heck, I was a reluctant reader for a while there), but it’s unfortunate to hear people giving up on books. It reminds me how important it is to get the right book into the hands of EVERY student, so that barriers to reading can be broken down. Thankfully, teachers and librarians are working hard to do just this. For instance . . .
* One of the Canton R-V teachers has assigned DIVERGENT to a reading group. She’s hoping to organize a trip to Chicago for the students, so that they can see the setting for themselves. This is brilliant – I hope it happens.
* She’s not the only teacher I spoke to who is using YA novels in cool ways. Professor Terry Sherer told me about an assignment he gives his education students. He has them read books like THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME, and WONDER, and FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, and use the information to craft an imaginary IEP (Individualized Education Program) for each of the narrators. How cool is that! It’s almost like reverse-engineering the books.
Again, thanks to everyone for reminding me what an engaging world we live in.