01-19-19 – Judith Ashley – My Sanctuaries and Safe Havens: Writing and Spiritual Practices

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reaching Out To Readers

Hi everyone.
B. A. Binns here, back for Hearts and Flowers round with the genre-ista's.

My genre is contemporary, realistic Young Adult. My slogan is "Stories of real boys growing into real men...and the people who love them." I write for the eager and the reluctant reader.

I was always one of those "eager readers" as a child, young adult and now adult.  Give me a book, almost any book, and I was a happy kid. I was the girl who began sneaking into the adult shelves in 5th grade (I'm old enough that they didn't have anything called YA back then and I had already gone through the kids stuff in my local library). Seriously, the unabridged version of the Count of Monte Cristo, all 600 plus pages, was one of my favorite books back then. (Can you spell N E R D?)

But there were always schoolmates who were left behind, who didn't like books, did not see reading as fun, and cracked the pages only when forced. They avoided books like they were hotbeds of the superflu.

Reluctant readers

These are the so-called "reluctant readers." Some have trouble reading and abandon the attempt to avoid looking foolish or feeling inferior.  Some see no reason or value in reading. Most have never met a book that excited them and became the page-turner they could not put down. They don't realize what they lose. Because whether it's a paper book or an eBook, short stories, a novel, memoir, or biography, books give us something movies and video games do not. Reading exercises parts of our brains and helps us examine ethical issues. Becoming part of a character and following them through moral and physical dilemmas gives us a safe place to exercise judgement, make mistakes, understand consequences, all in the privacy of the pages.

Is there a book that says something about ME and MY life?

Answering that question can help turn these kids around. Librarians struggle to connect the right kid with the right book. The book that will call to them and make them realize reading is worth the effort. Maybe it will show them a little of themselves and the people and world around them.

I wrote Pull to reach out to reluctant readers, to give them a world they could recognize and charcters facing the same issues they do, family problems, peer pressure, adult expectations, domestic violence and the loss of a future. My hero's need was to find a way to become his own man, my heroine had to escape  legacy of abuse that left her self-esteem damaged. Many teens found themselves on the pages, just as many adults see memories of their own pasts.  I can't tell you how many times I have visited students and had at least one, usually a boy, ask me if this story was "real." It feels that way to them.

My newest book, Being God, tries to do that again, showcasing issues like bullying and teen substance abuse, parents who don't know how to protect their children from these problems, and a girl who realizes she cannot make a boy change no m atter how much she wants him to.  It's about rising above the influence and recognizing how much we need family and friends in our lives. As one teen reader has already told me "witnessing all the issues Malik had with his dad gave me a sense of knowing that I wasn't the only guy who sometimes hates his father."

I have been invited to speak at Kent State University in the spring, and at the American Library Association's annual meeting over the summer. I will be discussing the sissue of reluctant readers, and ways to help turn them around.

P. S. I won't forget my 2013 publishing goals. In addition to releasing Being God (Goal #1), I continue to make presentations at schools, libraries, and conferences about multicultural literature and the needs of reluctant readers. I will continue discussing the problem with every school, teacher, parent and  library I can reach, reach out to me and let's set something up. Books are fun, a ticket to understanding ourselves and the world around us. I want as many kids as possible to share in this.


I am also running a contest this month, for people who follow my Being God blog tour.   Leave a comment to be entered into a raffle for a $25 Amazon gift card.  Check out my personal blog for more contest details including additional chances to enter AND to learn more about me and Being God.

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Judith Ashley said...

B.A. Your passion is a key to your success and it shows through in virtually everything you do. I was born an eager reader and my son and granddaughters are reluctant readers. Very humbling because there were always books (still are) in the home, I read to them, we went to the library, etc. All those things the experts say are important. Thank you for the work you do to encourage and invite reluctant readers into the world I love.

Denise Covey said...

I love books that focus on issues, and it definitely is the way to get reluctant readers to read -- if the issue touches their life. At some time I will check your books out -- right now I'm just flying by!

Paty Jager said...

I was like you, an avid reader and didn't understand those who didn't like to read,until I married a man like that. He struggled in school because back when he was in grade school they didn't compensate for you speaking another language.You learned English or got behind. His parents spoke their language and home and he struggled. And having an accent and nto pronouncing the words correctly while reading in class he learned to hate reading.

My son would only read nonfiction books. The grade school teachers were frustrated with him that he wasn't interested in chapter books. He wanted to learn how things were built and what made them go.

So I am wholeheartedly in favor of books that will help the reluctant reader learn to enjoy reading.

My dad gave one of my books to a woman at the bank where he goes. She told him she wasn't much of a reader. I received an email from her wanting to know when the next book of my series was coming out. She said that book was the first one she'd ever read the whole thing and she wanted to read more. Sometimes it just takes getting the right book into the right hands to start a reader.

Great post!

B. A. Binns said...

I want to thank you all for stopping by. It is good to hear that other people think this issue is important.

BTW Paty, when I speak on the subject at schools and librarian conferences, I advocate giving them non fiction if that's what they want. Ditto for Manga and even books on tape. Sometimes its just about getting them to see that there is value in words.

deanne said...

Thanks so much for this great post. I frequently help out at my daughter's elementary school library. And while most of the time is spent re-shelving books, I also get to make recommendations. It is particulary difficult I find to connect with the boys. Your suggestions to find out about them, what their life is like, in order to make a recommednation is a good one that I will try next time I am int he library. Thanks again.

B. A. Binns said...

Deanne, I have a friend who is also a high school librarian. He told me sometimes he just has to think like a used-car salesman. Looking beyond what they ask for and into their lives is one of the best ways to find something that will rekindle the joy of reading for them.

I am in the middle of putting together a presentation on this subject for the American Library Association meeting this summer. And a lot of it will be about ways to connect to the guys and their lives.