Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Wanted: A Healthy Interaction between Writers and A Fresh Young Audience by Steven Verrier
Today's guest blogger is Steven Verrier, author of the novel, Plan B.
Life was good to fifteen-year-old Danny Roberts. He was a model student, playing violin in his high school orchestra and earning straight A’s on the fast track to university. But then things went very wrong very fast. The problems started when a teacher wouldn’t let Danny out of class to go to the bathroom – even though he said “I’ve really got to go!”
Danny responded by defying authority for the first time in his life. That shocking act of defiance earned him a suspension, and Danny’s troubles snowballed from there. But Danny isn’t your typical student, and he doesn’t take his lumps lying down. He fights back on his terms as he plots a course through uncharted waters.
Wanted: A Healthy Interaction between Writers and A Fresh Young Audience
by Steven Verrier
During the past few years I taught English at a high school on the east side of San Antonio, Texas. While I had some good students who liked to be challenged and who’d read anything they could get their hands on, I had far more students who weren’t much interested in reading anything that couldn’t be broken down to simple text messages. Even if they wanted to read books or other materials considered suitable for readers their age or older, they just didn’t have the background for it. The vast majority of my students, according to standardized tests and what I saw daily in the classroom, weren’t able to read anywhere near ‘grade level.’
As a teacher, I had to adjust certain expectations as I went along. Some students, for example, had to be provided simpler translations of Shakespearean plays in order to get anything out of Shakespeare. They could be introduced to the Elizabethan language, but in order for them to get any sense of ‘story,’ well, the language had to be simplified and the ‘story’ often had to be shortened or summarized.
Nobody would suggest, though, that summaries or simplified versions should supplant Macbeth or any other piece of literature young people nowadays may find difficult. It’s a real tragedy that so many young people are unequipped for serious reading, but writers aren’t the ones most at fault. Schools and parents should set their sights on producing a new generation of strong readers, and writers should set their sights on producing a new generation of strong literature. Only when both parties succeed in doing their part will we have a healthy interaction between writers and a fresh young audience.
Steven Verrier, born in the United States and raised in Canada, has spent much of his adult life living and traveling abroad. Publications include Plan B (Saga Books, 2010), Tough Love, Tender Heart (Saga Books, 2008), Raising a Child to be Bilingual and Bicultural (Hira-Tai Books of Japan), and several short dramatic works (Brooklyn Publishers, USA). Currently he is living with his wife, Motoko, and their five children in San Antonio, Texas.
You can visit his website at www.stevenverrier.com.
Look for our review of this book coming to TC&TBC on July 30th!