The National Education Association launched Read Across America on Monday, and the “Read-In” began in Atlanta. I took part in it on Tuesday at West Junior High School in Columbia, MO, and I can tell you, the power of reading to teenagers is underrated.
Over 100 teenagers sat rapt while I read a story about kids like them… I shared an excerpt of my young adult novel Dregs, a chapter leading up to a jock on the verge of a meltdown. The most powerful image, for me, was of a girl who nodded her head while I was reading a scene of a freshman picking on a 7th grader. That said enough to me: she’d seen it with her own eyes. It validated what I’d written and why I write. For every author in America, validation from readers, especially young readers, measures higher than sales, recognition, even awards.
Reaching people…that’s what teachers strive to do. As an author, achieving that is on a different level. We get feedback, hear from readers what they liked and even didn’t. As a teacher, we seldom know our impact until years later. I have some students who stay in touch with me, and because they tell me what an inspiration I was, I know how I touched them. But so often, I’ll hear that a former student of mine has gone into education to be an English teacher or has gone into Journalism or has published something. A little smile creeps across my face, because I’d like to think it had just a little to do with me and my class. I might be wrong, but there’s nothing mistaken about a listener nodding her head like she knows exactly what I’m talking about. That’s direct and immediate feedback, and for many of us, it’s what motivates us to keep writing! I think I’ll start a new YA novel right now.