Rebels and Tornados join forces for hot summer reading program

To encourage reading during the summer months, Champlin Park (CPHS) and Anoka (AHS) high schools have joined forces for a Muse on Minnesota Authors program.

Terri Evans (right), Champlin Park High School (CPHS) media specialist, has led the school’s Red Hot Rebel Read program, which provides books to students and staff and brings authors, including Nina LaCour (left), to the school.  Photo submitted
Terri Evans (right), Champlin Park High School (CPHS) media specialist, has led the school’s Red Hot Rebel Read program, which provides books to students and staff and brings authors, including Nina LaCour (left), to the school. Photo submitted

One hundred students from each high school were selected for the program and will read “Split,” by Swati Avasthi; “Unforgettable,” by Loretta Ellsworth; “Stupid Fast,” by Geoff Herbach and any Patrick Jones book. The authors will visit with students Oct. 11.

CPHS is no stranger to large-scale summer reading events. It is the home of the “Red Hot Rebel Read” (RHRR), which provided a book to every student and staff person to read during the summer and then hosted the author for a series of events the following fall. This year the Children’s Literature Network approached Terri Evans, RHRR founder and CPHS media specialist, with its interest in doing a program featuring Minnesota young adult writers. The organization was interested in piloting the program at CPHS.

“After some discussion, this seemed like an excellent way to combine our summer reading with the program that Children’s Literature Network (CLN) wanted to pilot,” Evans said. She asked AHS to participate because she liked the idea of a collaborative effort between the schools. Pam Leindecker, a media specialist, is coordinating the program for AHS.

CLN connects, informs and educates those who have an interest in children’s and teen books, authors and illustrators. Vicki Palmquist, co-founder of the CLN, said members of CLN’s Chapter & Verse Book Club have got to know Evans and admire her dedication to the best in books for her library’s readers.

“It’s CLN’s mission to connect books and readers, so it was a natural to work with Terri to bring four of Minnesota’s authors to the students taking part in the Rebel/Tornado Summer Read,” Palmquist said.

CLN organized the author involvement in the program, providing background information on each of the authors, as well as contractual services. CLN has not worked with a school district before. Palmquist said the group is using this as a proving ground with plans to take Minnesota’s young adult book authors out to meet more readers and to talk about writing and reading as intrinsic part of life.

“It’s thrilling to have an opportunity to work with students who are avidly interested in meeting the authors of the books they read, as well as the teachers and librarians who work diligently to provide these connections,” Palmquist said.

“At CLN, we are delighted to work with inspired librarians like Terri and Pam. We know how much they read, how often they are looking for the right books to put into the hands of the right readers and admire their energy in pulling together a program like the Red Hot Rebel/Tornado Summer Read. We think they are awesome.”

Students will have an opportunity to share impressions and questions about the books with the authors and each other via a blog. Comments are expected to be respectful and supportive.

“Kids today are all about technology,” Evans said. “We wanted to include a technological element that would keep kids engaged during the summer months. Each author is blogging with the kids for three weeks, so they are having one-to-one interactions with the authors.

“The comments the kids are making are so insightful. I am so proud of them.”

Students will have the opportunity to meet the writers face-to-face Oct. 11. A large-group discussion will be held with the four authors and 200 students and then smaller groups of students will work with the writers on a variety of topics. Evans said 60 CPHS staff members have signed up to read the books and after the school day ends, the writers will speak with staff.

As with RHRR, students will be encouraged to “get caught reading” this summer as part of two contests. The first contest asks students to have a photo taken of them reading one of the assigned books in front of a Minnesota landmark or with a famous Minnesotan. The second contest involves a photo being taken reading the book at a famous landmark anywhere in the world. Winners will have their photos made into READ posters and be on display in the media center.

For Evans, the number one goal of Muse on Minnesota Authors is to promote reading.

“We also hope to work to build a community of readers, continue to develop reading schools, and encourage discussion of teen issues as a part of this program,” she said.

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