The Learning First Alliance has posted a great interview with author Walter Dean Myers about his upcoming book Dope Sick and about how best to help young people who get on the wrong track. The book was inspired by the time he has spent with young men in juvenile detention centers, discussing how they ended up where they were. This quote from the article broke my heart:
I’ve spoken to so many of these young men. I had a very sad experience recently. I spoke to a kid in an elementary school and told him about a book I was working on. Then, three years later, I met the same kid in a juvenile detention facility and he asked me if I had finished the book. Very sad.
Myers also discusses what he thinks schools can do to reach out to students, especially those who are slipping through the cracks. I fully support his vision of involving students in books, rather than just reading them, answering a few questions, and moving on.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: As you reach out to kids who begin to see their own experience in your life and begin to take hope from it, do you have a sense of what schools can do to help impart the same kind of messages? Either specifically through your Second Chance Initiative, or more generally?
MYERS: One of the things I would like to see is what I saw at the Harlem Children’s Zone—that is, the schools bringing in parents. Have parents come in and discuss some of these ideas with the children.
[Schools can] have open forums on books, rather than [have students] just read a book and then go back and answer questions about it.
Allow the kids to challenge books. I love it when someone challenges my book and will perhaps bring me in, and I’ll have to defend the book. That’s great, because that gives me an opportunity to go there, talk to these kids, and let them know. I say, “Listen. This is how I went about writing this book. This is what I meant to do. This is what I felt like I should be doing. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but this is how I did it.” At that point I’m humanizing the process for the kids.
The entire interview has been posted on their website, Public School Insights, which celebrates what is working in public schools and aims to enrich the national conversation about public education.
And there’s more! Want a preview of Dope Sick before it is released on 2/10? The first three chapters are now available for download on AdLit.org. And wait, it gets even better! The entire book will be available online at harperteen.com from February 10-24.