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UD students encourage reading at annual literary celebration

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During the 13th annual Festival of Words, UD students engaged high school students in fun and interactive literary lessons.

On March 8, a rare warm and sunny Saturday, 23 students in University of Delaware's English and education programs volunteered their time to present an interactive workshop at the 13th annual Festival of Words.

The festival was held at Appoquinimink High School in Middletown, Del., and students from the Young Adult Literature and Multimedia Texts class (EDUC/ENGL 403) worked with high school students and their teachers during a fun-filled session that centered on the post-apocalyptic science fiction book The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.

Discussion focused on the choices human beings would have to make if aliens invaded the Earth.

This popular young adult fiction text is told from the perspective of multiple narrators who watch the planet be systematically annihilated in waves of destruction. The characters have to survive in a harsh environment where they don't really know who to trust, and are never quite sure who is human and who is alien.

The UD students focused on the survival and identity themes and moved the session participants through a series of challenges that included racing in blindfolds, carrying softballs without using arms or hands, and making choices of survival gear that had significant consequences for their future prospects.

Event organizer and Appoquinimink librarian Christine Payne praised the UD students for their willingness to volunteer to work with Delaware high school students, for developing such an engaging series of challenges to introduce students to the novel, and for highlighting the importance of young adult literature in the lives of adolescents.

Evaluations of the session were so high that the students were invited to lead two sessions at next year's festival.

Bill Lewis, assistant professor in UD's School of Education, said he was proud of his students and what they accomplished in their session.

"This was a completely student-led initiative," Lewis said. "The students determined the themes that they would focus on, collaborated in class with their peers to develop engaging activities that would illustrate those themes, skillfully guided the participants through the challenges on festival day, and led a fantastic discussion that tied the themes to the real-life challenges and identity issues that adolescents face. Plus, many of them dressed as post-apocalyptic alien fighters. They went above and beyond the call."

Students who presented were: Brittany Airey, Nelson Ayela, Shelby Benton, Kyra Carmack, Garrett Carvajal, Alexandra Copman, Emily Cushing, Claire Davanzo, Jess Dougherty, Sam Dugan, Jill Fileti, Jenna Giannone, Laura Glacken, Hilary Johnson, Keiara Johnson, Chase Karpus, Sara Morris, Kim Narunsky, Alex Reichl, Devon Riecke, Amy Silverstein, Hannah Winand and Michel McNelis.

Secondary English education students Allyson Heim and Jaclyn Vail also volunteered at the festival, helping organizers with registration and other festival work. This is the sixth year in a row UD students have made a presentation at the Festival of Words, an event that draws some of the biggest names in young adult literature to the state.

Ellen Hopkins, this year's keynote speaker, is a New York Times best selling author of young adult and adult fiction. Previous guests have included Walter Dean Meyers, Matt de la Pena, Rita Williams-Garcia, Patricia McCormick and National Book Award winner, M. T. Anderson.

Article originally published March 19, 2014 in UDaily

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