Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This is What Happens in Summer

Man, take away my structure...and wham...I don't blog for days, I forget to shave...and what's my name?

I'm on point this week with the boys (my wife has an extended contract, and works through Friday). Happy to say I am writing, but fighting my instant lack of structure at the same time.

It happens every summer, and it is a good problem to have.

The best part of time off of the ol' job is more time spent with Thing 1 and Thing 2. Owen is learning to read. Man, how he lit up this morning when he realized (and showed me) that he can read Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. I'll have him devouring Lovecraft and Poe in no time.

Speaking of Poe, I have a couple of nonfiction projects rattling around in my head. Both are hybrids of my day job and my love of dark fiction. The first, a collection of Poe stories with teacherly resources, annotations, and other goodies. Sure, teacher's guides and annotated editions exist, but most are too pricey (publishers must think teachers/schools are made of money...wait...they are made with tax money) or just plain lame. Teenagers sniff out lame faster than...well, something really fast.

The second, and this one is a stretch, is a book about teaching horror as a way to reach adolescent non-readers. Most books I can find on the subject approach horror as one would in a graduate level literature class. I'm thinking about a course for at-risk readers with high interest material (good quality stuff, too--not just schlock and gore). Even my most reluctant students perk up at the mention of Poe. You should see the reaction when we read "In the Vault" by H.P. Lovecraft (Cthulhu might be a little over some heads).

So...am I already missing school, or do these ideas have any merit?

16 comments:

Natalie L. Sin said...

I think they're good ideas. Especially using horror to reach kids. That's what turned me on to reading : )

Horror Girl said...

I have to admit, I was already a crazed reader when I got more into horror, but still, why the hell not give it a go? I doubt it's going to lose any readers. It would either not work, or it would make more people read! Something that is very much needed*


*debatable and matter of opinion. course my opinion's the right one...

Rebecca Nazar said...

Am I correct here, you're the one who writes teaching is a family curse, right? Yet your missing . . .

Yes, true merit. ;-) Just throw some King in, will ya? He did win an O'Henry for "The Man in the Black Suit".

Alan W. Davidson said...

I think the presenting of horror to interest the non-reading teens is a great idea. My 13 year old son reads at a high level but shows zero interest at reading for enjoyment. Perhaps I will pick out some stories from NT when it arrives in the mail.

Aaron Polson said...

Natalie - I thought it was Little Women. ;)

Samantha - People will continue to read, but the number reading "literature" (i.e., fiction) is shrinking. Sad.

Rebecca - I kind of like my curses. Some reading consultants cite King's early work as the beginnings of young adult literature (or at least the kind of stuff young adults read before YA).

Alan - Reading for enjoyment is important, I think. Your son is very typical...I'm sure he'll dig some NT.

BT said...

I remember reading King, Saub and Saul as soon as I was allowed to borrow from that section of the library - mainly because I'd read everything else my school had.

That was way, way, way, etc, etc back before YA was a target market.

But now we have Goosebumps and stuff like that, so why not the types of things you;re suggesting. I think a multimedia approach may work best.

Have students watch Shelly, Stoker, Poe, Lovecraft and Co. Allow them to see the classics as well as read them.

I think that could work very well.

Danielle Ferries said...

I love Dr Seuss. I used to love reading Roald Dahl's The Witches. And the Poe idea sounds great.

Robert said...

I like the idea about a Poe book ... and the best part about it is his work falls into the public domain (I think) which means you wouldn't have a pay cent one for the rights ... though to make up for that, you'd better have good insight and such into the stories.

Then again, I may be wrong about the public domain stuff, which I probably am, so scrap that idea.

Aaron Polson said...

BT - I would definately include a smattering of tech tie-ins (video, etc.) Pretty generic, of course, 'cause tech is changing daily.

Danielle - Dahl is fantastic, too. The Witches, the BFG...

Robert - You're right on with the public domain. But "free" means I must add some value to make the purchase worthwhile...maybe I should just scrap the idea, anyway.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I think the idea has merit. I am reminded that while in the college track English class we were stuck reading the usual band of lit from a textbook while the vocational (how is that for subjective) class received print outs of Stephen King shorts and only used the textbook when they had Poe or some Science Fiction element to them. We didn't consider it fair that they got to read the 'cool' stuff and we were stuck reading the boring material.

Barry Napier said...

That picture just made my day....granted, it's not even 9 am yet, but still...

K.C. Shaw said...

Both books sound like excellent ideas, especially using horror to reach non-readers. You might find a broader audience (and more interest from publishers) if you changed it to genre fiction instead of just horror, and then focus on the horror anyway. :)

katey said...

Definitely have merit. We read The Telltale Heart in my senior AP English course (even though it was supposed to be English Lit, our teacher was making up for our crappy education the year before when we had American) and it really got some of the kids into it. Poe is so not lame, but the way it's taught... yep. Also, low-cost texts make the world go round.

Same goes for the horror reaching adolescent non-readers. This is why I love teachers (and wish I had the patience to be one myself)-- ideas like this really change kids' lives.

Plus, they sound like a blast to put together.

Let us know what Owen thinks of Poe in a few years ;) Though I'm sure the kid's a natural!

Catherine J Gardner said...

Very good ideas, especially the second. And, I could be wrong (but very rarely am), I think with non-fiction you can pitch the idea to a publisher before writing it (or at least before completing it). Do you know Joel Sutherland? He pitched a non-fiction book to Scholastic and they accepted it.

Aaron Polson said...

Cate - you are very right. I might line up my pitch and see who bites. I could definately land on a banned-books list somewhere. That would be cool.

Anonymous said...

Now why didn't we have teachers like you when I was a young'un