Ever optimistic, Michelle took her students’ success as encouragement and decided to pursue writing seriously. Five novels later, Michelle returned to her first audience – reluctant readers – to encourage them again. She established an educational publishing company, Right Track Academic Support Services, LLC, and released the highly successful Moment of Truth kit in the fall of 2008. A second kit, Breaking Point, was released in 2010, and there are several sample stories available online.
The kits are a collection of short stories, informational articles, multi-media tools and comprehension activities aimed at struggling high school readers. Students meet characters who struggle with real-life issues including drug abuse, passing statewide tests, date rape, relentless bullies, and club initiation gone wrong. She sees her work as helping students understand the consequences of bad choices.
Joining Stimpson in the effort to reach disenchanted youth are several publishers of non-traditional literature. New Jersey-based Townsend Press created the popular Bluford Series to reach the underserved urban population. And Kimani Press, an imprint of Harlequin, also markets to groups once thought to be “non-readers.”
Not everyone agrees with the controversial subject matter, however. Bobbie Castell, Vice Principal at an alternative high school in Garland, TX, wonders if the publishers of such material are doing more harm than good. “The characters in these kinds of novels don’t always represent good role models for our kids,” Castell comments. “We have to be careful that we don’t reinforce negative stereotypes in the name of reaching at-risk students.”
The impact of urban literature is yet to be determined. Will students who delve into this genre become life-long readers? Will they associate reading with pleasure? Perhaps acclaimed academic writer Kelly Gallagher best labels what the publishers of juvenile urban fiction are trying to prevent: readicide – the systematic killing of the love of reading. While only time will reveal its long-term impact, hip-hop fiction may be a step toward preventing the loss of one of humanity’s great past times.
Still want to know who gave birth in the restroom? You just proved Stimpson’s point. To sample this emerging genre – and learn the answer to the question - visit www.wegottaread.com.
# # #
Right Track Academic Support Services, LLC, is a publisher of high-interest reading materials for reluctant secondary students.