All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Walter Dean Myers' Second Chance Initiative

In "Dope Sick," Walter Dean Myers breaks new ground and stretches the boundaries of realism to bring forth a tale of second chances, redemption, and the promise of hope. Inspired by these ideas of hope and redemption, Walter Dean Myers and AdLit.org joined forces to create The Second Chance Initiative to motivate teens to overcome life's challenge, move beyond mistakes of the past, take advantage of the second chances they are given, and make better choices in the future.

In Dope Sick, Walter Dean Myers breaks new ground and stretches the boundaries of realism to bring forth a tale of second chances, redemption, and the promise of hope. Inspired by these ideas of hope and redemption, Walter Dean Myers and AdLit.org joined forces to create The Second Chance Initiative.

The initiative is an effort to motivate teens to overcome life's challenge, move beyond mistakes of the past, take advantage of the second chances they are given, and make better choices in the future.

Scroll down for loads of material to lead a unit on making good choices: a Dope Sick reading guide and free online access to the first three chapters of the book; extension activities to help get kids thinking and writing about their own lives; audio podcasts and video interviews with Walter Dean Myers, who discusses his own tumultuous childhood, his approach to writing, and his reflections on a recent school visit; and resources on the social/emotional development of teens and guidance for talking to kids about a range of topics including dropping out of school, drugs, and teen pregnancy.

About Dope Sick

Plot summary

Dope Sick Buy it button

Lil J has lived through the layers of pain that are so difficult for inner city youngsters to transcend and has been exposed to an astonishing array of drugs. His path from "brokesick" to "dopesick" leads to a drug deal gone bad and a shot undercover cop. Lil J suddenly finds himself in an abandoned crack house with a bullet wound to the arm. He would do anything to change the last 24 hours. That possibility becomes real when he stumbles into Kelly, who is set up in front of a TV set with remote control, about to provide Lil J the opportunity to assess and confront his own existence and ultimately, a chance to change the direction of his life.

Book Excerpt

"My arm was hurting bad. Real bad. The bone could have been broken. I couldn't tell. I just knew it was hurting and swollen. I felt like just taking the gun out and throwing it away and giving up so I could get the mess over with. I opened my mouth so I wouldn't make so much noise when I breathed. Down the street I saw the patrol car was still at the corner. He had his lights flashing. I didn't know if he'd seen which way I was running or not. I knew I was too tired to keep running much more."

Author Extras

Reading Guide and Extension Activities

  • Download a free Dope Sick reading guide from Harper Collins!

  • Myers uses pictures and photographs, particularly old photographs of African-American life, for character ideas and inspiration for his books. Students can use the same technique with this lesson plan from ReadWriteThink; Rummaging for Fiction: Using Found Photographs and Notes to Spark Story Ideas.

  • Get readers thinking about their own past and present by writing letters to themselves. Students can write actual letters, or create an e-mail that will be delivered to them in the future at FutureMe.org.

  • Art and music have the power to change they way we think about life.
    PBS Independent Lens examines the influential power of hip-hop on our
    culture in HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. You can use this documentary to invoke discussion on the points-of-view represented in hip-hop lyrics and why, as well as the cause and effect of sexism, homophobia, and violence within the hip-hop culture.


National African American Read-In and Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers is participating in a web seminar as part of NCTE's celebration of the 20th anniversary of the National African American Read-In, an annual event to make literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities.

Watch a recording of this virtual event (available February 18) and download an African American Read-In packet (available now).


Author Podcasts

In this AdLit.org podcast series award-winning author Walter Dean Myers discusses his childhood, his approach to writing, and the representations of minorities in young adult literature.

Now on on iTunes U!

Download these podcasts from iTunes U and listen whenever you want!

Go to iTunes U >>


Author Interview

In this exclusive interview with AdLit.org, Walter Dean Myers discusses his writing, the drop-out crisis, ways to engage teens and struggling readers, and reads from his new book Dope Sick.


Student Discussion

Walter Dean Myers really enjoys meeting the kids who read his books — he frequently visits schools and juvenile detention facilities to talk with young readers. In February 2009, Mr. Myers met with students at New Directions High School in Arlington, VA, to discuss Dope Sick and to answer the students' questions. Watch the video of the conversation below.

NCTE Web Seminar Featuring Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers participated in a web seminar on February 17th, honoring the 20th anniversary of the African American Read-In, sponsored by the Black Caucus of the NCTE and NCTE.

Watch a recording of this virtual event and download an African American Read-In packet.

Dope Sick in the news

Second Chance Resources

For Students

For Educators and Parents

Dropout Information

Social & Emotional Support for Teens

School/Family Partnerships

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About Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers

Biography

Walter Myers was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia in 1937. When he was only two years old, his mother died. At age three, Walter moved to Harlem with his new foster family, the Deans. Growing up, he spent a lot of his time on the basketball court and in the public library. Walter's foster mother, a half-Indian and half-German woman, taught him how to read.

Myers grew up with a speech impediment that made it difficult for him to communicate with others. Frustrated and tired of being taunted, Myers often found himself in fights. At the age of nine, he began to express himself through writing poems and short stories. Myers later dropped out of high school and joined the army on his 17th birthday.

As a young adult, Myers worked odd jobs, but he never stopped writing. Whether he was loading trucks or working at the post office, he usually found time to write at night. Myers published articles in journals and magazines, but the biggest break of his career occurred in 1969, when he won a contest organized by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. His entry, Where Does a Day Go?, became his first published children's book. Myers has since become one of the country's most popular African American writers for children and teens. He has won five Coretta Scott King Awards and two Newbery honors. Drawing from his own experiences growing up in Harlem, Myers often writes about the challenging realities that face today's urban youth. Walter Dean Myers frequently collaborates with his son, illustrator Christopher Myers.

Myers, the father of four, lives with his wife in Jersey City, New Jersey. As an adult, he adopted Dean as his middle name — in honor of his loving foster parents.

Watch another video interview with Walter Dean Myers on our sister site, Reading Rockets.

Other Books by Walter Dean Myers


Autobiography of My Dead Brother Buy it button

Autobiography of My Dead Brother

Jesse tries to make sense of the complexities of friendship, loyalty, and loss in a neighborhood plagued by drive-by shootings, vicious gangs, and abusive cops.

Learn more >>

Bad Boy Buy it button

Bad Boy

As a boy, Walter Dean Myers was quick-tempered and always ready for a fight. In this memoir, he describes how he began to doubt himself and the values that he had always relied on, attending high school less and less, turning to the streets and his books for comfort.

Learn more >>

Game Buy it button

Game

Drew Larson knows basketball is taking him places. But when Coach's new offense has made another player the star, Drew must come up with something big to save his fading college prospects.

Learn more >>

Monster Buy it button

Monster

Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed, and word is that Steve served as the lookout.

Learn more >>

Shooter Buy it button

Shooter

A dark and dangerous friendship leads to a school shooting with a tragic aftermath.

Learn more >>

Street Love Buy it button

Street Love

If you fell in love with someone from the wrong side of the tracks, would you follow your heart or would you run away? This evocative tale of star-crossed urban love is set to a Shakespearean Harlem beat.

Learn more >>

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