Dr. Alan Brown of Wake Forest University & Local Author Sarah Guillory Deliver Final Keynote Addresses
"When we hand our students that book, we should hope for and foster the amazement that awaits them inside it."
Dr. Brown is uniquely qualified in reaching reluctant readers as he confessed to being one himself in his youth. As a result, he takes a special interest in what preoccupies his students and student-athletes outside of the classroom.
"I'm interested in finding out what these kids are doing instead of reading," he said. "That's key in getting them to start reading."
Dr. Brown is particularly devoted to reaching the specific demographic of sports-minded adolescent males. This particular sample of the student population is notorious for lower student literacy rates. Dr. Brown encouraged educators to think outside the box when trying to reach these students. He shared various techniques that have been successful in non-traditional classroom settings.
"We've got to get books out of the library and into the classroom and gym," he urged his audience. "Most athletes don't go to the library at all, or they merely go for the computers to surf ESPN.com."
Dr. Brown shared alternatives such as libraries hosting sports movie nights featuring films based on novels and fantasy sports drafts that create a unique culture of participation and collaboration. He also charged his audience with making not only that initial connection to a student but also working to foster continued reading habits.
"We need to obtain and sustain," he stressed.
In closing, Dr. Brown played a video of late American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem, "Amazement Awaits."
"When we hand our students that book, we should hope for and foster the amazement that awaits them inside it," he said.
Alan Brown is an assistant professor of English Education at Wake Forest University. He works regularly with middle, high school, and college students as well as secondary teachers/coaches to critically examine the culture of sports in school and society while connecting contemporary literacies with students' extra-curricular interests and out-of-school spaces.
For more information on Dr. Brown's work and his experiences at the conference, follow him on Twitter @Alando1423.
"I adore teens and I love writing for teens."
Her life-long passion for reading led her to become an educator, although her taste in literature has changed drastically. A self-confessed one-time "literature snob," Guillory's love of the written word began with the classics, which she read voraciously until college when she was forced to enroll in a Young Adult Literature course.
"I read Harry Potter and that was IT," she shared with her audience. "It just changed me as a person and as a reader."
She now reads YA almost exclusively. Guillory also shared her own journey as a teacher and writer.
"I became a teacher because I wanted kids to be as passionate about books as I am. And as a writer that is my hope as well," she said. "YA makes kids feel validated and like their voices are being heard."
Her own love of YA stems from the themes that the genre offers its readers.
"What makes YA so special is the message of hope that is almost exclusive to the genre. Adult lit doesn't always give us hope, but YA delivers every time."
Guillory's love for reading and writing YA is fueled by the audience it reaches.
"Teens are the most passionate group of people. They are amazing," she said. "At this point in life, the highs are the highest highs and the lows are the depths of despair. And there's a beauty in that. I adore teens and I love writing for teens."
Sarah Guillory teaches sophomore English just outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is an avid Young Adult Lit reader and the author of Reclaimed, her debut novel that was published in October 2013. She is currently penning a second novel.
For more info on Sarah Guillory's work and her experiences at the conference, follow her on Twitter @sguillory262.