CANNONSBURG What is it about a book that grabs an entire classroom of kids and grips them so tightly they read without pause through an entire period, groan when the bell rings and beg to take a copy home to finish after school?
Whatever magic is between the covers, it’s what teachers long for and the source of their own inspiration to spend their working lives in the classroom.
Teacher Linda Hoffman. at right, hopes to inspire her students to be lifelong readers.
At least that's what Linda Hoffman says. Hoffman is a sixth grade reading teacher at Boyd County Middle School and she is caught up in the spell cast by the young adult novel her students are reading, a book so captivating they plan to launch a campaign to contact movie producers and lobby for it to be produced for the silver screen.
The novel is “Tangerine,” by former teacher Edward Bloor, and it is in many ways typical of modern young adult fare, featuring a middle-schooler struggling to cope with a new school, disconnected parents, a tormenting older brother and other adolescent baggage.
But whether the novel is remarkable or not in the literary sense, its effect on Hoffman’s students has been profound and she has discovered a newfound confidence that reading is not dead in the age of Snapchat and Instagram.
To the contrary — when class ended Wednesday, a day Hoffman devoted to a read-out-loud session, all 25 students groaned in dismay when the bell rang rather than cheering the announcement they’d get to spend the next period outdoors in the unseasonably warm January sunshine.
“Can I take a book home? I’ve got to read the rest of this book right now,” said Traschele Gibson. “In one scene, it can grab your attention,” she told a visitor while marking her place in the borrowed copy.
“I’ve used the book for the past three years. Last year the kids thought it should be a movie but they didn’t want to do what it takes. This year they do, Hoffman said.
“That’s why you teach, to get to that moment,” she said.
Their campaign will start with composing letters to producers, among them Ironton’s Mickey Fisher, who rose to Hollywood prominence recently with his TV series “Extant” and who recently sold a series pilot to NBC.
The kids see it as an exercise in persuasion, which it is, but in writing the letters they will fulfill sixth-grade academic requirements and sharpen their understanding of the novel, its structure and themes, according to Hoffman.
In the process more of them will become avid, lifelong readers, she believes.
A quartet of classmates who already love to read say they want to share their devotion to the written word with their peers.
Once you’ve found that one perfect book, the kids say, reading becomes almost compulsive. “Reading can become an adventure and you want to stay in it,” said Alexis Russell.
When a reader truly connects with characters, “it makes you feel you are traveling through the story with them,” Abigail Boyd said.
A great story will leave readers longing to meet its characters and a great book can do more than that, Gracie Newman said. “A great book can change people’s points of view,” she said.
“I went from saying, oh, great, another school book, to loving it and saying, don’t judge this book by its cover,” said Jake Manning. A former reluctant reader, he changed his mind about books when he read another young adult series. “It flipped a switch for me,” he said.
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