Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ed's TED talk



I didn’t really know Ed Madden in college.  He was a senior and I was a freshman.  We ran in different social circles.  I’m not sure we ever had a conversation.

What a shame.

Luckily, through the power of Facebook, I’ve had another chance to get acquainted with Ed (an associate professor of English at the University of South Carolina).  He strikes me as someone who’s open and honest … just the kind of person I like.

Recently, Ed shared with me a link to a TEDx talk he gave in Columbia, SC.  It’s the story of a son taking care of his terminally ill father.  It’s about second chances … and much more.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

A tale of 2 reluctant readers



I was a reluctant reader.

I don’t remember learning to read a single word, besides my name, until first grade.  It seemed like kindergarten (back then) was more about playing and art and singing, but in first grade we got down to business.

We learned T-o-m and started reading all about his life.

If I’m being honest, Tom was kind of a boring guy.  As I recall, he spent most of his time pulling a red wagon up and down the street.

Then, in second grade, the reading stuff became more intense.  Our teacher, Mrs. Alston, even asked us to do some of our reading outside of the classroom.  Was she serious?

I hated reading.  It was a complete waste of time.

One of the books I took home was all about bees.  Queens and drones and honey-making.  When I had that book in my hands, I wished I was anywhere else doing anything else.  Bees!  Who cares about stupid bees?!

Then, sometime late in my second grade year, I stayed home from church on a Sunday night.  (I must have really been sick, because—at that point—I was too young to fake anything that would keep me out of church.)  On that evening, I was super-bored and lying on the couch in the den, so I decided to crack open a book.  And, for the first time, I completely lost myself in it.

I wish I could remember the name of that book.  I’d like to walk up to the author and shake his or her hand.  Maybe even give a bear hug.  Because from that moment on—I was hooked on reading.

It was just a matter of finding the right book.

***

Throughout my late elementary and early junior high years, a genre of books that I loved was “sports fiction,” and one of my favorite authors was Joe Archibald.  It was there I learned some important lessons, like it was okay to use a behind-the-back pass in basketball, but only if you absolutely had to … otherwise you’d just be “showboating.”  I also noted that if I grew up to play pro football, well … then I’d be able to go out with friends for hamburgers and milkshakes just about any time I wanted to.

***

With these things in mind, I was excited to hear that my old college friend—Rick Butler—had published a series of sports fiction books with reluctant readers in mind.  If you’d like to know a little more about the story behind Rick’s books, then keep on reading …

Rick and Mike ... back in the day.

***

From C.E. Butler

When I think about my academic progression, and specifically about reading, I think about Gary.

Gary was a third-grade classmate, though my friends and I quickly realized he was at least two years older than everyone else in our grade. Each school day in that year our teacher, the wonderful Belle Durham, sent us into groups to read aloud to each other. There was the advanced reading group, the not-so-advanced group and then there was Gary. He would sit all alone, struggling with a book that had a title he couldn't read, full of pages filled with words that might as well have been written in French.

Though I was the academic equal of any of my classmates in most subjects - and, as I recall, the absolute best in math - I fell into the second reading group. The members of our group would sit and stare at each other, daring one another to be the first to read. No one wanted to because each of us knew we were in that group for a reason - we didn't read very well.

Granted, this was nearly 40 years ago and I remember Mrs. Durham as a fair lady and a wonderful teacher. What I really remember, though, is that I felt labeled as one of the slow readers in the class, definitely in the bottom one-third. I rarely remember reading on my own at that age. Then, by some fluke that I don't exactly remember, I was introduced to sports fiction.

Back to Gary, though.

As soon as I found the sports fiction genre, something clicked. I read in the mornings, afternoons and at night before bed. I'd finally found something to read that interested me! My reading improved rapidly and within weeks, I was promoted to the highest reading group.

My reading improved so much in such a short period, that Mrs. Durham assigned me to work one-on-one with Gary. For nearly an hour each morning, Gary and I would sit together in a corner of that classroom and sound out the simplest of words to each other. We enjoyed it and became friends.

I'd love to say here that Gary flourished because of my tutoring in third grade. That's not what happened. The next years saw Gary pretty much back where he'd been before, sitting in a corner trying to figure out things on his own.

For a few months, though, we made some progress.


I'm fairly certain I owe whatever academic success I've ever had to reading sports fiction as an eight-year-old. When I realized that a long time ago, I decided that one day, I'd write something - anything - that might help another struggling young reader.

Hopefully, The Will Stover Sports Series does more than that. Hopefully, the books in the series are written on a level that can be enjoyed by both boys and girls of any age. The main purpose, though, is to provide reading material for someone who is struggling the way I struggled.

Available on Amazon.