Deborah LeBlanc visited Western Heights High School in OKC today. If you’re a teacher reading this — especially and English teacher — you absolutely MUST look into having her visit your school to talk about The LeBlanc Challenge. The program itself is fantastic, offering kids cash and prizes for reading books. What’s more, Deb provides free copies of the books for every kid in the school.
On Tuesday evening Deb joined the WHHS Book Club for dinner at Cimarron Steak House. The kids were thrilled with that opportunity, as it gave a small number of students the chance to talk one-on-one with a real author. And Deb was great, going around the table to each student to greet them and learn their names.
This morning she came to my first period Creative Writing class to talk about writing. She very graciously listened to some of my most talkative students and gave them some valuable tips to improve their writing. Fortunately, she preached the same message I’ve been trying to get across to them. Maybe now they’ll see that I didn’t make up the "show, don’t tell" maxim.
For reasons unknown, our school didn’t do an all-school assembly, but divided attendance into two sessions. Deb, again, was very gracious in doing the two assemblies. Her story is incredibly moving, and she really knows how to appeal to kids, particularly the inner city kids. As she said, she came to offer them a challenge and take away their excuses to fail. She certainly did that. I won’t give it away, but hers is a sad, bizarre, and finally triumphant story that really moved a lot of kids.
Deb provided 990 copies of her novels Morbid Curiosity and Water Witch so that every student could have one. Water Witch isn’t available for sale yet, and that thrilled the kids. Deb even sat outside the library for our two lunch periods and signed hundreds of books.
The English department faculty loved the assembly; the department chair said it was the best one we’ve had. The attending vice principal liked it, and the assistant superintendent sent a glowing thank-you to the English department for having Deb in. Most important, though, was that the kids loved it and were going after those books after the assemblies. Yes, kids who ordinarily would rather be horse whipped than open a book were walking through the halls with an open book in their hands. They were asking for time to read in class. That alone has to earn Deb a place in Heaven.
Did I mention that the school didn’t pay for ANY of this. Deb and her sponsors paid for everything. I don’t know who her sponsors are, but their support is certainly appreciated, too.
I’ll say it again: If you’re a teacher, you really have to see about getting her to come to your school. She will get kids to read.