Teacher sets students' sights on literature fest
SUHA KHAN found common ground with Graham Salisbury's main character in "Eyes of the Emperor," so she's is eager to meet him at the "Celebrate Reading: Book Clubs & Literature Festival" this weekend.
"I could really connect with his character. His personal experiences really brought me back to when 9/11 occurred," she said. "I was ridiculed in school just because I am a Muslim Pakistani. It hurt me, and reading the book was actually an emotional roller coaster ride because of all the memories that flooded my mind."
It is these types of connections that English teacher Chris Windnagle is seeking from his Pearl City High School junior honor students.
"They can be very opinionated," Windnagle said. "That is what I love about high school readers. They are honest about telling Graham Salisbury that they don't like an ending to his story."
For several months, his class has been reading books in preparation for the annual literature festival. Twenty-one authors, including Salisbury, Chris Crutcher, Lakambini Sitoy, Lynne Cox, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, plan to participate.
Windnagle introduces an array of creative processes that cause students to delve deeper into the stories. They've written letters to authors, interviewed characters from books, created children's stories from a particular piece of literature, created movie posters for books they've read, even created sculptures symbolic to certain stories.
The students also have an opportunity to create alternate beginnings and endings. And they all post ideas and engage in dialogue on Internet chat message boards. "Without interference, they can say what they want about the book," Windnagle said. "They are speaking their own language with each other, and at least they are focused on literature."
"The festival provides a great opportunity for people to meet the authors of the books that they are reading," said Audrey Okemura, Pearl City High librarian. "For those thinking about a career in writing, it provides an opportunity to meet positive role models."
Casey Ohashi, for example, is a huge fan of author Chris Crutcher and hopes to be able to ask him questions at the festival. "I plan on going into journalism or becoming an author. I want to know how he got his start."
One of the youth groups discussed how much they enjoyed Matthew Kaopio's novel, "Written in the Sky." They agreed that the author made people more sensitive to the growing problem of homelessness.
Curtis Noborikawa found this tale particularly inspiring and realistic. "It's something you could actually relate to Hawaii because we have so many homeless people."
Lorna Hershinow, who helped organize the literature festival, arranges for college students to go to the high school and participate in the reading circles. The Hawaii Council of Teachers of English program offers a model of "school-to-college celebration of literature," Hershinow explained.
"I began this program because I have always read my way out of isolation," said Hershinow. "I see reading as a great teacher of cultural tolerance and a crosser of dividing differences."
Hershinow grew up in Africa and couldn't watch television, so she became an avid reader to help broaden her horizons. In the '70s she came to teach at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
"I decided to become a reading activist, aparthood and apartheid being so very narrowing and hate-producing, and reading so much of a solution to bigotry."
Students created posters based on the books they read. CLICK FOR LARGE
Book Clubs and Literature Festival
8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Campus Center Ballroom, University of Hawaii
Lorna Hershinow, 239-9726 (firstname.lastname@example.org
), or Shel Hershinow, 734-9432 (email@example.com
» Kickoff celebration:
Author Haruki Murakami holds a reading and question-and-answer session, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Campus Center
Thursday, Kauai Community College
» Big Island:
Friday, Kamehameha Middle School
On the Net
» Visit www.hawaii.edu/hwp/teensreading.htm
for more on the Celebrate Reading festival, and a list of books and authors to be featured.