Reaching Reluctant Young Readers with Arthurian Legends: Cheryl Carpinello
Welcome to Cheryl Carpinello who is on a blog tour with WOW! Women On Writingfor her book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend. This is a book for middle-grade readers (usually 9 to 13), similar to my book, Finding My Place, if you or your kids have read it. I had a chance to interview Cheryl, so read on! At the end of the interview, there’s more information about the book.
Margo: Hi, Cheryl, welcome to Look to the Western Sky. I have a lot of parents, grandparents, and teachers who read my blog. So let’s start with why Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend is a good choice for middle-grade readers and/or what age group will like this book?
Cheryl: Hi, Margo. Thanks for having me today. About Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend for middle-grade readers: Even though Guinevere (now age 15) and her friend Cedwyn (now age 12) lived in a very different time period, kids today still find themselves facing the same kinds of situations and decisions. Guinevere, in particular, tends to make decisions based on what she is feeling instead of tackling problems logically. Her father is always re-enforcing this as he tries to prepare her for her role as the future queen of Britain. Cedwyn, though younger, sets his sights on a path and never waivers, even when the consequences might be fatal. I think kids reading the story will see a bit of themselves in one or both of these characters. It is my hope that besides getting these readers further into Arthurian literature, the story will help them see themselves from a different perspective. Upper middle graders (ages 12-14) are so emotional with hormones flying in every direction that sometimes it’s impossible to sort out those emotions. We always stress that they should think things through, but sometimes they need help and examples to see how do that.
Margo: So true! This is a sequel to another book you have, Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend. Do readers need to purchase the first book to understand the one that you’re currently promoting?
Cheryl: It is not necessary to have read Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend before reading book 2. The reason for that is because of the distance between the publication of the two books. On the Eve of Legend was meant to be a stand-alone. Readers were introduced to Guinevere (age 13), a naïve young girl, to see how she handled the idea of marriage and how that would play out as she grew to be a queen. The story was also meant to be an introduction to Arthurian Legend. With eight years between the two stories, I specifically weaved in enough backstory so that those who hadn’t read book 1 could still follow and enjoy the story. Guinevere herself retells the Legend of the Red Deer and the Unicorns (see the illustration below)—albeit from a new perspective.
Margo: Great! But if you or your children are interested in Arthurian Legend, there are actually TWO books you can read! In your bio, it states: “She hopes to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through her Tales and Legends for Reluctant Readers set in these worlds.” Are these two books part of this series? (I’m guessing yes). Can you tell us how your books reach reluctant readers?
Cheryl: You’re right, Margo. They are part of my Tales & Legends for Reluctant Readers. My ambition after retiring from teaching was to reach out to reluctant readers at an earlier age. I found that Arthurian Legend enticed my high school reluctant readers to actually read on their own, and also did the same for younger kids. (See my post on Some Legends Do Live Forever https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/2018/10/some-legends-do-live-forever-by-cheryl.html)
As for reaching those readers, I use a variety of methods. I spent two and a half years doing Medieval Writing Workshops with the Colorado Girl Scouts. This was where I really saw the impact and enthusiasm for Arthurian Legend for ages 8-10. School/classroom visits are also vital in reaching reluctant readers. I do a number of those, especially in high economically-impacted schools. Book fairs and craft fairs are a target area for me, as here is where I have the chance to visit with parents and grandparents and talk about the importance of reading and reaching reluctant readers.
Margo: I love this idea. I especially love that you have experience seeing reluctant readers interested in the legends and reading on their own! Being a retired English teacher and a writer for children, do you have any tips for parents, teachers, and librarians about how to encourage children to read and foster a love of reading?
Cheryl: Yes, I do, Margo. It’s what educators and many parents already know. Be a role model for kids. I am, be they my students, my own, or my grandkids. Kids watch adults carefully and imitate them to a certain degree. And that imitation can influence their choices with reading and writing. The truth is that kids who see adults reading will be more favorably disposed to reading. My kids were both readers, and my husband and I read constantly with them and in front of them.
If you have a kid who is a reluctant reader, there may be several reasons for this. Many kids, especially boys, struggle with reading for one reason or another. Be patent with them. As parents, express your concerns to their teachers, and see if testing can be done at the school. Gently encourage reading at home. Don’t harp on what they are reading.
I had a 30-minute conversation with a grandmother just this last weekend about her 11-year-old grandson who refused to read. Frustrated, the parents and grandparents pushed hard and gave the boy severe consequences for not reading. In talking with her, she let it slip that the boy would read a graphic novel once in a while. I looked into her eyes and said, “Then he is reading. Encourage that. Graphic novels are okay.” We talked a bit more and as she left, she said, “So I should get him graphic novels for Christmas?” Yes was my reply, but I told her just a couple. She didn’t want to overwhelm him.
Margo: That is a great story. I believe 100 percent everything you just said. The books my daughter chooses to read are not always the ones I would choose for her, but then again, I don’t want anyone choosing my books! So, you’ve talked about this a little already, but what drew you to want to be a children’s author as a 2nd career?
Cheryl: Having worked with students who resisted reading at the high school level for 20+ years, I was on the lookout for literature that would call to them. When I found the excitement these kids had for Arthurian Legend stories, I decided to try and reach reluctant readers at an earlier age. You can read my complete blog post “Why I Went From Teaching Tales & Legends to Writing Them” at http://www.astorybookworld.com/2018/10/why-i-went-from-teaching-tales-legends.html
Margo: Is there anything else you would like to add about your books or your writing career? Also, where can interested readers find out more about you and your books?
Cheryl: Currently, I am working on the third book in my Guinevere trilogy. It’s titled Guinevere: The Legend. An interesting tidbit about my writing: I always decide on the title of a work before I start writing. I’ve never changed a title. I think that deep in my subconscious the story is already completed. It’s just waiting for me to work out the kinks!
I also love to do classroom visits, even outside of Colorado. Contact me, and we can work out the details. (Hint: I’m also a retired airline employee, so I can usually fly to destinations for little or no cost.)
Thank you, Margo, for hosting me! By the way, I love the title of your blog. I am a dreamer, and those lyrics fit perfectly into my life!
Margo: Thank you for your time, Cheryl! The work you are doing to bring a love of reading to children is very exciting! Best of luck to you. 🙂
When their adventure turns deadly & dangerous, Guinevere & Cedwyn find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle. Not only are they in danger, but so are the kids of Cadbury Castle. Renegades – foiled in their attempt to kidnap the princess – steal the children of Cadbury Castle to sell as slaves. Guinevere and Cedwyn vow to rescue the children, but a miscalculation puts them all in more danger. As the plan quickly unravels, Cedwyn chooses to turn his dream of becoming a knight into reality.
Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice?