I got honored today in an ususual and delightful way: a series of novels was dedicated to me and my students.
The novels are the latest series by Elise Leonard and published by Nox Press. Elise is a former teacher who took what she learned in the classroom about the shortage of serious literature for high school students with poor reading skills and did something about it. She has crafted two series of novels that are sophisticated enough to engage HS students who don’t notice that the books are written at the first or second grade reading level.
Ever since I started teaching in a middle school three years ago, I’ve been looking for books written at the first grade level but not written for first grade students. Middle school students do not want to read about furry little bunnies or bright yellow duckies. They want books that talk to them at their reading level AND their age level. Elise Leonard delivers the goods.
When I happened to land on the Nox Press website , I purchased one copy of each of the ten Junkyard Dan books. Each book is a nearly 100-page novel with character development, plot, conflict and resolution. The books are distinct but interconnected, the idea being to start with the first and to read the others in succession, the reading level being a bit higher in each book as you progress. Student reading levels rise as they realize that reading can be engaging and fun.
Today Nox Press’ latest series, A Leeg of His Own, was dedicated to me and my students, particularly one student named James. James was in my sixth grade class two years ago. At that time we worked on sight words and basic phonemes. When James read the first Junkyard Dan book, The Start of a New Dan earlier this year, it was the first novel he ever completed. It took him three weeks to read the 91 pages of the book, coming to my classroom before school started each day to read a bit more. He finished the second novel in just under two weeks. Now he’s reading the third in the series.
James is very hard working, but also very shy and he was simultaneously aghast and proud that he was being singled out for recognition. In her presentation after the ceremony Elise said that she hoped the recognition that we were getting today would inspire more struggling readers to try again and to keep trying until they succeeded.
Something clicked. After the ceremony I was interviewed and photographed by a local reporter. When I finally got upstairs to my classroom I had a small line outside of students, mostly boys, who wanted to start reading those books. I had to chase Elise down and order more copies. I had to pay for my first set. My principal paid for the ones I bought today. Recognition has its rewards, I guess.