In the state of Florida, public school students must pass the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) in order to graduate from high school. This acronym is more than just a four-letter F-word to students; parents hate it, teachers hate it, and administrators hate it, too. The only people who love it are bureaucrats and politicians because it takes a whole bunch of individuals and melts them into one, standardized, easy-to-generalize data sheet. Which is a bunch of malarkey.
Students are anything BUT generalized. They are individuals. They have problems. They have drug-addicted parents. They have sick siblings. They have night jobs that could wipe out an Olympic athlete. They have social issues and emotional problems and financial problems that adults can't even begin to fathom.
How DARE you judge them by a one-shot, multiple-choice test? How dare you?
Here's the deal. Teachers have been trained how to "teach to the test" and this is a horrid shame. English teachers are expected to STOP teaching novels. NOVELS! Stop. Teaching. Novels. So that they can teach students to read non-fiction articles about painted turtles and the sounds of the city, then identify the main idea by bubbling in an A, B, C, or D.
Well, I'm here to tell you (and YES, I am qualified to tell you) this will CRUSH literacy in this country. Listen to me, there is one very simple way to pass the reading portion of your FCAT (or any other state exam for that matter). One way. ONLY one way.
Lots and lots and lots of novels.
I don't care if the literature is sprinkled with F-bombs. I don't care if it's about kids murdering each other on reality TV. I don't care if it's about sparkly vampires, or werewolves that become shapeshifters when it's cold, or angels that fall from the heavens, or rape, or human trafficking, or a serial killer. Just. Read.
Read what you like. Read what interests you. But READ.
It enhances fluency and vocabulary. It boosts grammar, usage, and mechanics in writing. It helps EVERYTHING associated with literacy. Turn off the TV. Turn off your iPod. Turn off your cell. And READ.
I taught kids who failed their FCAT and were desperately trying to do eveything in their power to pass so they could graduate. Because I have no students to bark at, I'm going to blog this message instead:
Go buy a book. Borrow one from the library. Steal one from your teacher's bookshelf (okay, just put it back when you're done). Whatever. Let it be about anything you want. Anything. Screw these people who tell you that you shouldn't be reading books in the YA section of Barnes and Noble because they're too mature for someone your age. Just. Read.
I'm begging you.
Just read a book. You'll see the difference in your test scores, I swear it.
What I Write
My young adult novels are dark, edgy, and realistic. Although I love paranormal and fantasy books, I prefer to create stories that could really happen (and in many cases, really are happening). For me, the echo of a story set firmly in the real world always haunts me long after I've read the final word. If you like Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, and Neal Shusterman, you might like my books, too.