Friday, April 17, 2015

Kid Problems: When suddenly, everything is so much bigger than you (or: #IWishMyTeacherKnew )

Last Saturday, I went to the Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver. It's a one-day event for teachers, librarians and teens, all about books. I love it, even if it starts pretty early. There's breakfast, and this year's keynotes were Wendelin Van Draanen and Andrew Smith. I was inspired, and got to eat a dynamite sandwich for lunch with some cool librarians for company.

I was honored to be invited to talk about how to reach YA and middle-grade reluctant readers. This is a bit of a soapbox topic of mine, so it was a good thing I had a whole hour. I've done this talk at too many library conventions to mention (in AL, MS, GA)--basically, I try to share ideas on how to reach reluctant readers, and ask for teachers and librarians to share theirs. It's fun, inspiring, and I love it when I see heads nodding in agreement as I talk. Makes me feel like we're all in this together.

But I'll admit: this talk has changed over time. I now talk more about how reluctant readers are often kids with undiagnosed reading disabilities (hate that word, but it's the best I've got). I talk about how I have one of those kids in the house, and how easy it is to miss this struggle. How kids become experts at hiding their difficulty reading. And I also talk about how often, much of this reading reluctance is really about the kid's home life. Whether Mom and Dad or guardians read.

And about money. Because after doing so many school visits, and talking to many teachers and librarians and the issues they deal with, so much of it all is an issue of economics. No money=less time=less education=forgotten kid problems. We need to fix economic inequality, that's the bottom line. Teachers and librarians shouldn't be forced to be the Band-Aid to society's ails when kids come to school with gorilla-sized problems in their backpacks.

I could go on about this forever... But I won't.

But I will share this story, since I'm still on my soap box: it's of a third grade teacher who asked her students to share things with her in a note: I wish my teacher knew... These are third-graders being honest, and it'll make you cry, I swear.

After my presentation at the Colorado Teen Lit Conference, a parent stuck around, crying about her struggle to get her son (who has a reading disability) through life. It's a lonely gig, being a parent, kid, teacher, librarian dealing with these enormous problems. Sometimes, it's good to know you're not alone.

Chapeau to the teacher in this online story. Makes me think we should all write a note...

And since this is all a bit sad, I thought I'd surround this post with a bunch of nice drawings I got in the mail after doing a Skype visit not too long ago. Because sometimes, you get a nice note, too. And you make a kid reader friend named Dezarae.

I'm a lucky duck, to be an author of kid books.

3 comments:

  1. Fleur, thanks for a very thoughtful post. I have never met any kids with reading or learning disabilities though I have heard of them. In India, parents are usually forced to send them to special schools. I did, however, meet the parent of one such student who has to change schools and he seemed to take it in his stride. I can see why it's difficult for parents, especially when they want the best for their children but are helpless about it.

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  2. Wonderful post, Fleur. Keep up the good work.

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  3. You're so right, Prashant. And not all parents have the resources or time to commit... It's tough for everyone.

    Many thanks for the kind words, SW, and for stopping by!

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