• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun News Staff

WCHS students talk to authors at Reading Extravaganza

WCHS STUDENTS, from left, Aysia Pierce, Hunter Miranda and Shyann Kilfoyle listened to Lexington author David Arnold during last Thursday’s Reading Extravaganza. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

ENGLISH TEACHER Amy Schwarz spoke with students during a discussion about author David King’s “Finding Atlantis” during Woodford County High School’s Reading Extravaganza last Thursday. “Whenever an author comes in to speak with the students about their book, it really brings the entire piece to life,” says Schwarz. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Authors are regularly invited to the Reading Extravaganza so they can talk to students about their books.

Three authors – David King, Isla Morley (via Skype from her California home) and David Arnold – joined last Thursday’s conversations at Woodford County High School.

WCHS junior Hunter Miranda says she’s met Arnold before. The Lexington author talked with her English II class last school year, and she had a conversation with him again this year when he and other authors talked to students in her creative writing class.

“He’s just one of my top-three authors,” says Miranda prior to Arnold joining her reading group to discuss his “Kids with Appetite” at the Reading Extravaganza.

“I feel like he can relate to me – even though he’s a grown man and I’m a teenage girl,” she explains.

Emma Wesley, a sophomore, read Arnold’s “Mosquitoland” for last year’s Reading Extravaganza and, like Miranda, was looking forward to discussing “Kids with Appetite” with the author.

She says his words matter to teens like her.

“He’s very realistic. He doesn’t really sugarcoat things about life. And he changes your perspective about how other kids live,” she explains.

The 36-year-old Arnold tells Emma, Hunter and the other teens in his reading group, “My most honest voice is a 17-year-old. I still remember being in high school so vividly. I feel like it was like one of the more visceral times of my life.”

When English teacher Libbi Denney learned that Arnold was coming to this year’s Reading Extravaganza – only days before the event, she remembers telling herself, “I guess I better read a little more closely.”

Denney laughed when sharing her reaction to the news, but she and other WCHS teachers say students are given insight into the words on a book’s pages when authors participate in the Reading Extravaganza.

“Whenever an author comes in to speak with the students about their book,” says English teacher Amy Schwarz, “it really brings the entire piece to life. The behind-the scenes look that only an author can offer is what really inspires students to feel like they themselves can be successful writers, too.” She and a group of students were talking to WCHS graduate and author King about one of his books, “Finding Atlantis,” last Thursday.

Participating in the Reading Extravaganza also gives WCHS students an avenue for reading books they may not otherwise choose.

“They get to read for some pleasure,” says WCHS Principal Rob Akers. “They get to interact with some adults (authors, teachers and others in the community) … over a book.”

Akers points out that a district-wide initiative places an emphasis on getting students excited about reading, which he describes as a foundation for anything they do in the future.

In its 18th year, the Reading Extravaganza may offer more value to students now than in years past, WCHS librarian Mona Romine says.

“There are so many distractions in life and we know that we struggle to get students to read more and more. And we compete with so many things,” explains Romine.

She describes the Reading Extravaganza as an enjoyable event that creates a positive association with reading that’s more important now than a decade ago.

“They also provide good food and drinks and it’s just fun to discuss the books that I read,” says Emma. “It’s just a fun experience.”

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