Starting Tough Conversations for Struggling Readers an Interview with Kat Kirst

Starting Tough Conversations for Struggling Readers an Interview with Kat Kirst

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with an 8th grade English teacher that writes books for older struggling readers.  She keeps the reading levels low, so that all kids can enjoy the books and has had wonderful responses from her students.

Kirst has written two books, Surviving my Family and Snitch.   She has written these books to touch on difficult topics that kids can relate to.  These books can be books that parents can read with their children or their children can read independently.  The benefit of reading these books with your child is that you can have conversations with your children about these tough topics.

Here is the book summary for Surviving my Family.

 Thirteen year old Sharon Mason has become a master in damage control. Everyday she takes care of her alcoholic parents and protects her little sister from the unpredictable, dangerous life that they hide. Sharon has managed to keep everything running smoothly until things start falling apart faster than she can control. That's when her school life, well-meaning friends, and a crush on that one special boy snowball into an unstoppable, threatening force that can easily rip Sharon's family apart, separating them all, forever.

A young girl in Kirst's classroom read this book and said, "This was the first book that I ever read."  Another girl in her class had said that now she knows that her mom's drinking is not her fault.

Talk about making an impact on your students lives.  To give a child a new perspective on the difficult things that she is dealing with is the best present a teacher could give a child.  What many people don't know is that teachers do more than teach these days.  One role teachers play is that of a guidance counseler and Kat is playing this role well.

Now let's take a look at Snitch.  This book is about cyberbullying.  Here is the review on Amazon.

Pinning the blame on someone is easy when all it takes is a fake Facebook account or one quick push of a button that sends a tweet so crazy the entire school picks up on it. But what happens when someone gets blamed for something they didn't do? What happens when the truth plants itself smack in front of your face, and even though you don't want to, you know you must tell someone? What happens when there's no one there to tell? 

This book is based on a real situation that occured in Kirst's neighborhood to a good kid with a good family.  It also incorporates important parenting tips like the dad rule.  The dad rule for Kirst is, "If you ever have a problem and you need a ride, I will come and pick you up without any questions asked."  Wow, talk about support.

I asked Kirst how she goes through the editing process and she mentioned that she has her students go through the book.  Also, before a book is published she has read it over 50 times.  I get that, when I wrote my book 31 Days to Become a Better Reader: Increasing your Struggling Reader's Reading Level I read it over and over and over again. You quickly are able to pick out your errors, especially when you read it out loud.

Kirst loves involving her students not only in the writing and editing process, but also on the covers of her books.  The grafitti that you see on Snitch is reall grafitti from her students.  Even the photos's are of real students that she works with.

Kirst has mentioned that the kids that she works with feel that if their teacher can write a book, then so can they.  Sometimes she will come into her class and find kids writing away on the computer.  She gets to see the amazing impact she is making on her student's lives on a daily basis.  I am so grateful for teachers like Kat Kirst that take their passions and dreams and make them a reality.  She is truly an inspiration.

P.S. If you are wondering if Kat Kirst is writing any other books, the answer is yes.  Her students are currently editing it and the title has not been decided on yet, so stay tuned.

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