This past fall Mike Filce, an English teacher at South Tahoe High School in California and longtime Lee Childs fan, discovered that adding a couple of his own Jack Reacher novels to his classroom library shelf was just the trick to get his reluctant readers to pick up a book, particularly a group of his junior boys. Check out the note Mr. Filce recently sent us:
I am a 20+ year veteran English teacher, and incidentally a long-time Lee Child fan. If you teach middle or high school, you know well the great challenge of engaging boys in reading, especially those “reluctant readers,” as it takes special authors and special stories to do so. Our English courses require reading and reporting by page goals, and when I introduced a couple Reacher books to my shelves that I had finished reading myself, in a short time they got snatched up and read voraciously. While at first I was surprised because I hadn’t expected these relatively longer books to be a hit, my male students responded to the fast-moving, highly engaging Reacher stories in the same way I do. Looking at it now, the length has actually been an asset as it tells them they’re not reading “kids’ books” and has the added benefit of getting them more quickly to their page goals. If you’ve read even a few pages of a Lee Child novel, you know that these stories don’t lag or bog down, but move forward from action to action, and I think the guys especially like the fact that they’re not reading “junior” or “juvenile” fiction. It is clear that style, word choice, and craft matter to Lee Child. I also appreciate the manner in which the author deals with the inevitable “sexual encounter”–understated, mostly implied or alluded to, usually tempered by restraint and ethical and moral considerations, and certainly not gratuitous or explicit. The two Reacher books I had available quickly became high demand options among the guys in class–pestering each other to get done so they could get the one they hadn’t read. The question of reaching their page quota was rendered irrelevant as they were hungry for these books and only wanted more time for reading. That has happened rarely in my career; in fact, I can’t remember when it did happen.
As we all know, high school guys are a different breed. Yes, there’s plenty of great young adult literature out there, but these books have engaged them like no others, while also not treating them like children; for upper grade high school students, that matters. Bottom line: they want to read and enjoy these books rather than merely finding tolerable books to “get through.”