A Great Stepping Stone
On Saturday, February 25, our class attended the Childrenís literature conference at WWU where Patrick Carman spoke about his books and style of writing. Being a 20 year old girl who loves fantasy books, I didnít find Trackers all that entertaining, but I understand why many children do, perhaps especially males. We learned that as more technology finds itself in our everyday lives, children are finding less and less time for reading. Why is it that children choose not to read or simply donít enjoy reading as much anymore? Carman said that many children have lost confidence in reading and would rather have you think they are lazy than think they are stupid. Thatís why he developed his unique style of books, to try and serve as a bridge back to reading. I decided to interview my 20-year-old boyfriend who, throughout middle school and high school, played plenty of video games and read hardly any books. I had him read Trackers, hoping to see if he was actually able to read and enjoy it, and if he thinks it would have worked for him in middle school where so many books didnít.
Q: What did you think of Trackers?
A: I thought it was very good! The author seems to have looked into why kids are not reading and developed a good idea to change that. What a lot of old school adults donít understand is that technology is youth. The book was obviously a little young for me, but the breaks in the book to watch the videos and explore the website added a variety and played well with my short attention span.
Q: Can you relate to the book at all?
A: I can relate to Finn a bit because he likes to be more energetic and is not very focused.
Q: If you were in junior high do you think you would have enjoyed this book?
A: Yes, definitely. I very well could have enjoyed this book. The interrogation adds a lot of excitement to the book. Youíre constantly reminded that this is an intense situation, so it keeps the excitement up.
Q: What did you think of the references to current video games such as Halo (which you play so much of)?
A: I thought it was really cool. I liked reading about this kid that could do so much. Iím sure it inspires a lot of kids and helps them relate.
Q: Do you think the book was realistic?
A: No. If Adam could do all of that he would have been flagged instantaneously. He would have been dogging applications from Microsoft left and right every single day. Thereís no way he could have had the resources, but it would take away from the story if it was totally realistic.
Q: How do you think this book is received among boys verses girls?
A: I think more boys definitely like this. But I think if Emilyís character was brought out more than more girls might like it.
Q: Some of my classmates were disappointed in the immediate references to Emilyís appearance. What do you think of this?
A: I think since this book seems to be based toward male readers and told from a teenage guyís point of view, than a little bit of that is going to get their attention because itís realistic.
Q: Same thing with Zara?
A: I think Zara was a little far-fetched, but I can imagine how in junior high she would be very intriguing. I think itís good that the author didnít shut out the fact that sheís ďsuper hotĒ because thatís what all the boys are thinking anyways. It makes the story more relatable to know that Adam thinks that too.
Q: Do you think that reading this and enjoying it has helped build your confidence toward reading?
A: It does give me more confidence. Itís easier to stay focused when something is always intense in some way, be it the interrogation or action or mystery. It has a good balance of the different kinds of intensity.
Q: So you think this book could definitely be a bridge back to reading?
A: For sure. Nowadays maybe 3 out of 100 middle school kids are going to appreciate real literature. This kind of book is a great stepping stone. Being forced into a book you arenít ready to appreciate is why kids are getting turned off. You just want to relate at that age. Would you want to read a book about Halo? No, but I would.
Youíre not going to kick a 50 yard field goal unless you kick a 15 yard field goal first. Once you start reading, you gradually start to develop better reading skills and a higher attention span. Eventually you will get to the point where you say, ďOh, itís interesting how the author put that together or told that.Ē As your brain matures, sure you will want some excitement in a story still but you can also start to appreciate depth and meaning behind words. If I had had more stepping stones like this book throughout school I would have found it much easier to read.
Q: Why do you think it is important for kids to be able to appreciate literature at some point or another?
A: It develops the brain when you begin to be able to realize in depth what is happening. I didnít understand the underlying themes of prejudice and racism in To Kill a Mockingbird until I was simply told about them because I wasnít ready to be engaged in that kind of book yet. But if you keep getting challenged at the right pace then eventually you will learn. I would promote a book like Trackers for this reason.
Q: Do you think reading Trackers let you use your imagination?
A: It kept me wondering what it would be like to live like that and if I could ever do something like that. And Iím not sure if a middle school kid reading this would notice or care, but I picked up on a theme you could find in the book as well; that if you put your mind to something you enjoy you can prosper, but remember to be wise about how you go about this.
I was really excited with how this interview turned out. I knew my boyfriend would like this book at least more than the average book, but I had no idea that he would give me so much to work with and have such profound answers. I think this goes to show that if you give someone the right book for them, they can really excel, which in turns boosts their confidence and hopefully encourages them to keep reading.
In the end, I think Carman is to be congratulated in how he is able to get the kids that never read to actually do so. I definitely agree that this book can serve as a wonderful stepping stone or ďbridge,Ē as Carman says. Itís definitely interesting to think about putting myself in the shoes of Carman who is putting himself in the shoes of kids these days and figuring out what needs to be done in order to get them to read. I loved the chance to get to explore this idea. I also thought it was really inspiring to see what Carman talked about come to life in this instance. It is one thing to say, ďI think these books would help get kids who donít normally read get interested in readingĒ, and another to actually see it come true.
My boyfriend is not in our Childrenís Literature class and therefore had no knowledge of what my classmates thought of the book or style of writing. He simply read the book when I asked him to and then answered my questions. I think it was more accurate to do it this way because he wasnít influenced by the general opinion. I assume most of my classmates wouldnít be taking a 200-level English course if they had as much trouble reading as my boyfriend does, so it might be harder for them to understand why this book is appealing to others. Regardless of if itís appealing to me, I enjoyed the chance to explore Carmanís style of writing and the positive effect it can have on children struggling with reading. I now know first-hand that this kind of book does work for these kids, and this is definitely a good thing.
In this final Think Piece I made it a bit clearer of what my personal reaction was to the interview and what I took from it. I reflected a bit more than I already had on the significance I see in this type of childrenís book in this day and age, and tried to make it clear why I believe this is to be appreciated. Thatís about all I could think to add, otherwise I think it says it all!