It was for Read Across America and I was asked to read for a class of eighth graders. I didn't read from my own book, however. I was asked to read when our librarian found out my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, had just come out. At first, I was supposed to read from it but I decided against it for the following reasons: 1. It's not a YA book, dealing with adult issues and themes and containing adult language, that I felt it was difficult to find an appropriate passage for the students to listen to and 2. As a teacher in the building, I didn't want to get accused to soliciting on school grounds; especially since my book is intended for an older audience.
I decided to read from Marie Lu's Legend. I really loved this book and I love seeing students reading in class when their work is completed and there's only a minute or left before dismissal and during my lunch duty when some of them are sitting with their friends reading and/or talking about what they're reading. (I wrote a review of Legend in a previous blog post. You can find it here if you're interested.) Anyway, I chose Ms. Lu's book because it's exciting and has a male and female protagonist and I know many of my students have read The Hunger Games books and Legend would be right up their alleys. Without giving anything away, I read from an early section that sees June, the female protagonist, make a vow of vengeance. I'd asked Ms. Lu if she had any suggestions on what I should read and she was spot on with that passage.
The class of about thirty - and the teacher and an aide - listened attentively and asked some really good questions after I was done. They asked about writing, my own book, how a book gets made into a movie and where they could get Legend. One of the students, a self-proclaimed non-reader even said that he liked it, that it sounds really good and that he might try reading it. Another student, yesterday on the way out of our cafeteria, showed me a copy he'd obtained from the local library. He said that he's really enjoying it and this particular student is an ELL (English Language Learner) student.
It's really exciting to have seen the class's response to the reading. Legend is a fantastic novel, so it's not a surprise that they were into it, but for them to think about taking the next step and to get it and start reading was extra reward. I've been exposed to books all my life and been a reader for almost as long so to witness how a book has directly transformed someone was truly special.
In addition to hopefully promoting reading and books and to have, maybe, converted a couple of our students from non-readers to readers, I had a lot of fun. The reading also gave me practise for if or when I get to have a reading for my own work. (I'm trying to sort out a couple of possibilities locally and I'd love to do a blog tour but nothing's materialised yet.) I'd rehearsed the passage while my wife and son were still asleep that morning so I made sure I knew exactly how I was going to read each paragraph and how to read the dialogue in the way Ms. Lu tagged how her characters say the words. I also prepped, on the drive to school, how I might answer some questions that might get asked.
So, if I can offer a bit of advice to other newly published authors like me, it's this: read in front of an audience and any audience so you can. And, read from your work or someone else's. It's all good fun and good practise for when the reading is all about you and your book. If I ever get to have that experience, I'll let you know how it goes.