Dr. Steven Bickmore of LSU & Author Kimberly Willis Holt Headline Day 3
"I don't have to read everything on my bookshelf, but I do need to know what books need to be there."
The talk focused on the importance of the rich history of Young Adult Literature and the organizations that champion it. He stressed the importance of the legacy of YAL scholars.
"We need to know about the people who came before us in this field," he said of the founders and past editors and presidents of organizations like ALAN and YALSA.
Dr. Bickmore also stressed the essentiality of making the connection between the scholarly and the practical. He discussed the themes of traditional literature such as The Scarlet Letter and The Catcher in the Rye and how teachers can apply them in the classroom.
"These themes are not just academic themes," he said. "They are themes of humanity and we need to find a way to talk about them with students."
He also challenged educators to diverge from traditional teaching methods in which an entire class might read the same novel and to invest in the individual student.
"We need to figure out how to get the right book at the right time to the right kid," he said. "We want to promote reading every chance we get and turn these kids into readers as early as possible."
He cautioned that the only way to do this successfully was to be aware of the valued works within the genre. This knowledge comes from discernment and staying in tune with publications like the ALAN Review.
"We need to care less about grades and more about learning," he demanded to audience applause. "I don't have to read everything on my bookshelf, but I do need to know what books need to be there. We have a responsibility to learn which authors we can trust to our students."
Steven Bickmore is a current co-editor of the ALAN Review and assistant professor of education at LSU's College of Human Sciences & Education with an additional appointment within the LSU Department of English. His scholarly interests include how pre-service English teachers perceive young adult literature and its value as an instructional tool in the secondary English Language Arts classroom.
For more info on Dr. Bickmore's work visit http://uiswcmsweb.prod.lsu.edu/education/Faculty_and_Staff_Directory/item49071.html
"Only you can keep yourself from writing."
"Care about what you write about," she urged her listeners. "If the writer doesn't care about what they're saying, no reader ever will."
She also described how her own childhood influenced her career. Hailing from Forrest Hill, LA, Willis Holt traveled the world as the child of a military family. Still, she has remained loyal to her Louisiana roots.
"Louisiana has always been home," she said. "Because it was the one place we kept coming back to."
Despite her reputation as one of the most well-respected YA authors in the country, Willis Holt confessed to struggling as a student, especially with reading. She credits the particularly painful social experiences of her 7th and 8th grade years with making her a writer.
"I didn't think I could be a writer because that was what smart people did," she confessed.
She credits her teachers with turning things around for her when one instructor praised an essay Willis Holt submitted for a class assignment.
"Teachers are powerful," she told her audience. "Some of my best teachers were people I never got to thank. They empowered me that day and that day changed everything for me."
Willis Holt now works to empower other budding writers.
"Only you can keep yourself from writing," she encouraged her audience after confessing that it took her three and a half years to write her first novel. "Keep writing and keep learning."
Kimberly Willis Holt is author of the award winning novel, My Louisiana Sky. Published in 1998, the book was named an ALA Notable Book and an ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults. It also received a Boston Globe Horn Book Award.
For more info on Kimberly Willis Holt's life and work, visit http://www.kimberlywillisholt.com/