B. A. Binns here, hoping you will join me in a discussion of charity may begin at home, but it spreads out from there.
For me, charity begins at home, or at least with something that matters to me. Since I am an author of Young Adult fiction, I can tell you that teen literacy is high on the list of things that matter. My books have received several awards and honors. The proudest one was having my debut novel, PULL, named to the 2012 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list.
In the past two years I have become an advocate for Reluctant Readers, kids who claim they don't read, have lost interest, or been lost by the system that was supposed to educate them. I speak at schools, libraries and conferences about ways to reach these kids and turn on their innate desire to read. Someone told me once my books are in competition with TV, movies, and video games. I disagree. Fiction competes with these media the way boots compete with flip-flops. Both spend time on your feet, but each has a specific time, place and function. They do not do the same job.
Books are the media where we can see ourselves. With other media, we passively watch the talent perform on a screen. With books, the talent is US, performing inside out own heads. The right book in the right readers hands literally speaks to them. As one reader told me, "that's my life in your book."
Books present readers with ethical dilemmas that can be solved in the safety of their own minds, and leave lasting knowledge that can be used in the rest of their lives. And never forget the development of empathy and understanding that books do so much better than any sitcom or drama interspersed with the required number of commercials ever could.
On June 29, I will address a session of the 2013 Annual Conference of the American Library Association talking about ways to reach teen reluctant readers. I have given this talk to educators in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. I also talk directly to reluctant readers. I have spoken at the Camelot Therapeutic School, and the Joliet Juvenile Detention Center (which closed in Jan 2013), both in Illinois. I found young people in both groups who turned from uncaring to "I want to read that book" as they listened to excerpts, learned about the writing process, and,in some cases, read some of their own works to the group. The key was getting them involved and matching the right kid with the right book. Reluctant readers need stories that speak to THEM.
Since 2011 I have donated copies of both Pull, Being God, and Die Trying and other stories to numerous schools and libraries across the US, including:
- Alameda County Juvenile Hall, San Leandro, California
- Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas
- Denney Juvenile Justice Center School, Everett, Washington
- Merrillville High School, Merrillville, Indiana
- Shreve Memorial Library, Shreveport, Louisiana
- Vantage Career Center, Van Wert, Ohio
My definition of charity may begin at home, but it spreads out from there.