Walter Dean Myers and Dope Sick

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.

Welcome, Kelly Gallagher!

Kelly Gallagher, author of the upcoming Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It (available to read online here), has been on a blog tour all week.  Today I am thrilled to introduce him here, at TheReadingZone!  For the past few days, Kelly has been answering questions posed by you, the readers.  I am thrilled to include his responses here!

From Ann- As a teacher, what can I do about programs like Accelerated Reader? How do I keep my job (as an untenured teacher) but still instill that passion for reading in my students?

 

The key word in the question is “untenured.”  :) The good news is that AR
allows students to read real books…and good books, too. The bad news is
that the love of reading is undermined by the dumb quizzes and the quest for
points. I would explore ways of using the books but reducing the quizzes and
point grubbing (See McQuillan’s study in Readicide). Read Alfie Kohn¹s
Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes—great book.

After you are tenured, close the door and do what you think is best for your
kids. Take a more active stance. Educate others on the long-term
de-motivation caused by  ³carrot² programs. Model, model, model. Surround
kids with great books.

 

From Clix- Oh! I’d want to know if he has a blog ;)

I don’t, but I do have a website, www.kellygallagher.org

 

From Lisa: I have been flipping through and reading over at The Tempered Radical. I guess my big question is how do we help them love reading AND do well on the test. Obviously we have to care about the test whether we actually care about it or not. : ) I have my own ideas on this subject, but would like to hear his.

If you turn students into readers, they will do fine on the tests. There is
a direct and strong correlation between time spent reading and performance
on mandated reading tests. Not surprisingly, students who do the most
reading are the students who score highest. Conversely, students who do the
least amount of reading frequently score the lowest. If we want our students
to score higher, they have to read more. Incidentally, I have not had a
single student in over 20 years of teaching who was a non-reader and who
also scored high on the verbal section of the SAT. Not one. On the other
hand, I can pretty much predict which of my students will score well on the
exam before they take it. You guessed it: the readers.

 

It seems that reward programs for reading are all the rage now- from AR (Accelerated Reader) to Scholastic’s Read 180. How does a teacher work with these mandated programs when the district is unable to purchase more than a few dozen tests? In other words, when students must complete reward programs but can only choose books from a small, preselected list (that often includes more classics than anything else!), how does a teacher continue “the good fight”?

 

The best thing about AR is that it gets kids to read good books. The worst
thing about AR is it ties all reading to a stupid reward system‹a system
that teaches students to read because they can earn points (instead of
reading because of the value of reading itself). I believe this harms young
readers. Many studies have shown that reward systems like AR actually
decrease reading motivation once the ³treatment² is finished.
If your administration forces you to use the program, try to get them to
change their minds. I think the first thing teachers can do is challenge the
school¹s decision to use the program. Ask to see justification‹studies that
indicate that there is a long-term benefit from using the program. Share the
McQuillan study (and others) cited in Readicide. Ask administrators what we
are really teaching kids about reading when we tie all their reading
activity to earning points from shallow multiple-choice assessments.
Worst case scenario: do everything possible to augment your classroom
library. In Reading Reasons I discuss a number of ways one can build a
classroom library without breaking the bank.


As soon as I hear back from Kelly, I will update with his responses.  But what do you think of Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It? I have been recommending it to everyone I know and I think this is one of those books that will change the culture of our schools. It may start small, but people are going to be talking about this one! I absolutely agree with Kelly and his assessment of reading in our schools. See my review here.
Thanks goes out to Kelly Gallagher, as well to as the teachers who submitted questions. I appreciate Mr. Gallagher including TheReadingZone on his blog tour and wish him well as he continues his tour!

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher

On January 26th, Kelly Gallagher will be here at TheReadingZone answering your questions!  His newest book, Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, will be released on February 10, 2009. However, thanks to Stenhouse, we can get a sneak peek at the entire book before Kelly stops by!

So here is your assignment: Get reading! I have read the book and it is amazing- count on a review in the next few days. However, now I need you to read the book. This is your chance to pick the brain of Kelly Gallagher….when will you get this chance again?

You don’t need to read the entire book. One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 2: Endangered Minds (beginning on page 27). Gallagher presents a flood of information on the dearth of reading material in our schools and the effects on our kids’ reading. Read it, make notes, and come back here to post your questions! Kelly will be here on January 26th and I can’t wait!

Kelly will be participating in a five-stop blog book tour. Each of the following blogs will post either a Q&A with Kelly, or a review of the book, or will give you the opportunity to submit questions to Kelly. So browse the book and then check out all of these blogs in the coming days and discuss this vitally important topic!

Blog tour dates and stops:

1/20 – A Year of Reading 
1/22 – The Tempered Radical 
1/23 – The Dream Teacher 
1/26 – The Reading Zone 
1/28 – The Book Whisperer < span>

Kelly Gallagher Is Coming!

On January 26th Kelly Gallagher will be stopping by to answer questions from you, my readers!  Kelly has a new book coming out and it is amazing. Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It is being added to my list of “bible books”.  I am only about halfway through it right now, but I just keep finding myself nodding along with it and sometimes yelling, “YES!”, after reading a chapter.  

Don’t worry, around January 14th I will be able to share a link to the full text of the book so that you can also read over the book before asking Kelly your questions.  This is an amazing opportunity from Stenhouse and I am so excited to be a part of it.  So mark your calendars!k

Mary Pope Osborne Blog Tour!

Recently, I read Magic Tree House #40: Eve of the Emperor Penguin for the Cybil Middle Grade category. When the opportunity arose to interview Mary Pope Osborne, I jumped on it! Below is our interview.

 

Welcome to TheReadingZone!  Thanks so much for stopping by.  My younger sister is a fan of The Magic Tree House series, and she is dying to know how you get your ideas. Do you pick a topic (such as Antarctica) and then write the story around it? Or does the story come to you first?

After a lot of thinking and talking to kids, I pick a topic and start researching it. I scribble for weeks, filling notebooks with ideas and information. Then I organize all my notes and thoughts, and as I’m doing this, things start to swirl in my head, and I start writing little bits here and there. I grab more books and look up more things, and the next thing I know, Jack and Annie are saying this and doing that…and I’m running to catch up with them.

 

How hard is it to tread the line between including too much information about a topic and not enough? In other words, do you ever struggle with fitting in the information about a specific topic without hindering the story?

If I want to share more information and it doesn’t fit the story, I can put it in the notes at the back of the book. Or my sister Natalie Pope Boyce (who now writes the Magic Tree House Research Guides) can put it in her book of nonfiction that acts as a companion to the fiction book.

 

Where do you write? Do you have a special room, or a desk, or do you have to leave your house to write? Do you follow a special routine, like writing at specific times or a certain number of words per day?

The only routine I have is that I have no routine. You could catch me at work any time, day or night, writing a chapter or just writing a paragraph. No two days are ever the same. Now I mostly work in my study in Connecticut, as it overlooks a lake and has tons of bookshelves, a fireplace and 3 dog beds for 3 dogs. But for almost 30 years I wrote in New York City, and because our apartment was so small, I worked all over town, writing in libraries, parks, cafes and coffee shops.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Did you start as a young child or was it a decision made later in life?

I didn’t decide to be a writer until my late 20’s. Once I figured out that’s what I loved to do more than anything else, I couldn’t imagine ever doing anything else.

 

And last, but not least, as a teacher I have to ask this. What is the best memory you have of a teacher in your life?

Well, I grew up going to many different schools, as my dad was in the army. So my memories about school are pretty jumbled. But my high school English teacher, Miss Davis, sticks in my mind. I mostly remember that she loved praised good writing and would talk passionately about books she loved. I was always glad to go to her class and be in her sunny presence; and I remembering feeling really sad when during the school year, she got married (for the first time, at age 50!) and moved away.

 

 

Wow, Mary!  Thanks for sharing!  

 

The Magic Tree House books are awesome early chapter books and kids eat them up.  If you are still looking for a holiday gift for a young reader in your life, Mary Pope Osborne’s series is a surefire winner!

 

 

Be sure to check out the rest of Mary Pope Osborne’s blog tour this week!

Monday 12/15: Big A little a

Tuesday 12/16: Here

Wednesday 12/17: Fields of Gold

Thursday 12/18: The Page Flipper

Friday 12/19: The Well- Read Child

Interview with Mary Pope Osborne!

Tomorrow I will welcome Mary Pope Osborne to TheReadingZone!  Stay tuned for a great interview.

In the mean time, check out the rest of the blog tour that Mary Pope Osborne is on this week!

Monday 12/15: Big A little a

Tuesday 12/16: Here

Wednesday 12/17: Fields of Gold

Thursday 12/18: The Page Flipper

Friday 12/19: The Well- Read Child

Interview with Terri Fields

After reading My Father’s Son, I was dying to know what inspired this awesome story of a teenage boy whose world is turned upside-down when his dad is arrested and accused of being a serial killer. Luckily, the wonderful Terri Fields was kid enough to answer a few of my questions. Below is my interview with her!

I absolutely loved reading your latest YA, My Father’s Son. What inspired you to write My Father’s Son? Was there a certain case in the media that made you start thinking about the families of those accused of horrible crimes?

I was interested in the idea that we want to see our parents only in the role we have conceived for them. Teens, especially, have so much other turmoil in life that their parents are supposed to be a constant.
But is that reality? To investigate, I created a very extreme plot situation.

It’s awful, but it seems like these crimes are in the news more often in recent years.  How did you go about researching for the book (if there was any research necessary)? Did you interview family members? Read newspaper articles?

I read a lot about serial killers, especially BTK, whose family believed him to be an honorable citizen and loving dad right up until he was caught.

As someone who feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day (which is why it took ten days to get these questions to you!), I would love to know how you make time to write! Are you a full-time writer or do you have a day job? And what is your daily writing routine like?

I have just retired from teaching. I now have two part-time jobs related to education that still enable me to work with students and teachers. I think that’s important because it helps keep my voice honest. I also do tons of author visits which I adore! Because I have been a writer while raising two children and teaching, I’ve found that I don’t have a writing routine. I grab time whenever I can, and I love escaping to that inner world of my imagination. I’ve written for grades K-12.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished a book called The Fiction Class which I recommend.

And just for fun, what is your favorite dessert?

Hot Fudge Sundaes. If only someone could figure out a way to take the calories out of them, I’d eat one every day!

Me too, Terri!  In fact, I could go for a hot fudge sundae right now….

Thanks for stopping by, Terri!  It was great getting inside your head for a few minutes!

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