Ya Really Just Never Know

I’m a voracious reader. That makes me a nerd. I’m also a finicky reader. That makes me like zillions of other guys who sometimes look at a book and go, “Um, is there anything on TV?”

Oh sure, once upon a time I was force-fed books in school which I “fake read” (if I even gave them that much effort) but ever since I can remember there have only really been two types of reading materials in my hands.
1) Books you couldn’t pry away.
2) Books that were about to be forever tossed from my picky grip.

Not much middle ground.

Now some writers are readers who will devour any and everything. That’s not me. If I am not “feelin’ it” I move on and the amount of slack I am willing to cut any new title that finds its way into my life keeps getting shorter and shorter and shorter.

Why? Because there are already too many books I know I absolutely WANT to read. And being that I already know I do not have enough hours left on this planet to get to my current reading aspirations – and new books are being published all the time which I can’t wait to get my hands on… plus magazines, blogs and scoops on half-naked celebrities from TMZ – the slack I am willing to cut a title that isn’t cutting it for me is little, to say the least.

I do wish someone would have given me permission earlier in my life to toss a book aside when I wasn’t groovin’ with its vibe. In too many instances I “gutted books out” and choked down a bunch of pages for which I never had an appetite. Or an attention span. You ever been reading a “classic title” and realize your four pages further down the line but all you can remember is that your mind is absolutely convinced that microwave frozen pizza gets a bad rap.

These days, I read with a hook and if a book isn’t cutting it for me – after I have given it a fair shot, an imprecise calculatory science at best – (note, as a writer, you get to make up words) I am gone-zo.

I think that’s why this picture means so much to me.

What you are looking at is a copy of my book HOMEBOYZ. I wrote this book for reluctant readers, for kids who say they HATE to read. The pic was given to me by a teacher at an urban school in a high poverty community with an insane drop-out rate, a swollen illiteracy rate and a whole lotta other rates that they wish they weren’t being rated on.

But look at the wear and tear on that bay-bee. She said it’s her most popular book. Kids who loathe reading will book talk HOMEBOYZ and get other kids who hate reading to check it out. She told me, with a chuckle, copies of HOMEBOYZ has been stolen innumerable times (this isn’t her only one). “And these kids never steal the textbooks, I tell you that!”

As a writer, I am so, so proud that my book has reached so many kids. As a reader, this is the type of book that I want in my own hands. If I am not energized, enthused, excited, challenged, outraged, feverish, hurt, humored and genuinely moved by a book then off I go (like an addict) seeking the high that only reading can uniquely afford into the night, searching and searching and searching.

Who does this? Nerds do. And I am proud to be one.

Alan Sitomer is California’s 2007 Teacher of the Year. In addition to his work as an inner-city high school English teacher and professor in the Graduate School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, Mr. Sitomer has authored 14 books for esteemed publishers such as Disney, Scholastic, Penguin/Putnam, and Triumph Learning. These include six young adult novels, three children’s picture books, two teacher methodology books, and a classroom curriculum series for secondary English Language Arts instruction called The Alan Sitomer BookJam. A nationally renowned speaker specializing in engaging reluctant readers, Alan is currently working to reshape literacy education across the United States today.