Show, don’t tell: Poetry, relevance sell middle schoolers on reading

 

By Dawn Miller

“What would you say to the kids in the room to encourage them to read?” Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander was asked at the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston.

“I wouldn’t say anything,” Alexander answered.

“Who wants to be told? If you really want to connect and make somebody feel engaged, show them. That’s the real way to reach anybody. Make them feel something.”

From one of the readers in the crowd, Alexander borrowed a copy of his novel Rebound, a story about a 12-year-old boy who is dealing with loss, who can’t play basketball, but wishes he could. “This is what I would do,” he said, and recited an excerpt from the novel, which like all his books, is written in almost singable poetry.

It’s so singable, Alexander’s musician best friend Randy Preston, a retired teacher, brought hs guitar and sang a song from it. The two perform together now. They have visited almost 900 schools in the last three years.

“I don’t think you have to tell kids why they need to read,” Alexander said. “I think you’ve got to show them.”

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Newbery winner to speak at West Virginia Book Festival Oct. 27, 2018

Newbery winner Kwame Alexander will appear at the West Virginia Book Festival.

By Kaitlyn Guynn

The West Virginia Book Festival is returning to the Charleston Civic Center on October 26 and 27 with Newbery Award-winning children’s author Kwame Alexander.

His series The Crossover is about a boy and his brother who love basketball, but face challenges together much deeper than who wins a game of one-on-one.

Alexander and singer-songwriter Randy Preston will perform “A Literary Concert with Kwame Alexander and Randy Preston,” from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27 in Conference Rooms 202-205.

One of Alexander’s latest novels, Rebound, is a prequel to The Crossover, which is about brothers, loss of a father and becoming a man. Another novel, Solo, is a poetic verse novel about a 17-year old girl who learns that the life of a rockstar isn’t all the glamour it seemed.

Alexander has also published picture books and poetry books.

Leading up to the festival, Harvard history professor and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore will give the annual McCreight Lecture in the Humanities at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24 in Riggleman Hall at the University of Charleston.

Among her many books, Lepore wrote Book of Ages, a biography of Benjamin Franklin’s little-known sister, and The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which won the American History Book Prize. Her new book, These Truths: A History of the United States, was published in September.

Also appearing at this year’s Book Festival schedule are:

— Debbie Macomber, author of the popular Cedar Cove and Rose Harbor series.

— Dennis Lehane, staff writer of the HBO series “The Wire” and author of many bestsellers including Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone.

— John Scalzi, award-winning science fiction writer and blogger, author of Redshirts, among many others.

— David Grann, another New Yorker writer and author of The Lost City of Z, whose stories frequently make it to the screen.

The festival is free to the public. For more information about the schedule, writing workshops or other events visit wvbookfestival.org.

Kaitlyn Guynn is a senior at the University of Charleston.