This past school year, I walked into a teaching position that’s relatively new for the high school. Because of this, the program and its curriculum are still developing. While this can be interesting and exciting for a teacher, it can also be a little nerve-wracking. After all, my students were showing up every day expecting me to, well you know, have a plan. So, being the veteran teacher that I am, I figured, this is a reading class, let’s read. Brilliant, I know. But what to read? That was the big question.
I decided to let my students have a say, and after a full period of previewing books, they decided on SKELETON CREEK by Patrick Carman, a creepy ghost-story mystery that requires the reader to go online every few chapters to watch a video that complements the written story. For those of you old-school types who like to sit on the couch and read, sorry, you really do have to see the videos to understand the story. So, you’ll have to read on the couch with your smartphone nearby.
The video aspect of the story hooked my students from the start. It was different for them to see a book with a video component, and some of the videos were yell-and-jump scary, so they were sold.
Before I knew it, my students wanted to read. This is a big deal because all of my students are struggling and/or reluctant readers. They do not like to read. They do not read, unless they have to, and even then, they might not. Yet, once we started SKELETON CREEK, they often asked, “Are we going to read today?” as soon as they walked through the door. If we had something else to do first, like practice finding the main idea in a nonfiction passage, they would groan. When we did read, they flipped through the pages to see how far we needed to go until we reached the next video. I’ll admit, this bothered me a little at first, thinking they were only interested in the videos. But, we weren’t skipping anything to get there, so each video was like a carrot leading them through the words.
And when we finished the first book, guess what?
They wanted to read the next one.
Yes, I’m repeating it: They wanted to read the next one!
Did I mention my students don’t like to read? Well, these same non-readers often asked me, “Can’t we just read the entire period?” Ah, sweet music to my ears.
And when we finished the second one, GHOST IN THE MACHINE, guess what? They wanted to read the third one, THE CROSSBONES, and then the fourth one, THE RAVEN, which I had to pre-order to make sure we got it and were able to read it before school ended.
For many of my students, reading has never been fun. This past year, they wanted to read. They enjoyed it. They looked forward to it.
And for that, I thank you, Patrick Carman.